On Tuesday, April 14th, the Runnels County Commissioners’ Court adopted a resolution seeking property tax appraisal valuation relief from the state.


The most recent oilfield bust coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic to create an exceptionally stressful financial situation for many residents and businesses in the county. Runnels County Judge Barry Hilliard and the Commissioner’s Court are staying on top of the two continually-developing economic and health situations in an effort to ease the burden on the county’s taxpayers. Hilliard released the resolution and an email regarding the property tax situation in the county:


“On Tuesday April 14th, the commissioner's Court of Runnels County adopted the Property Tax Relief resolution.


Now, let me begin by simplifying as best I can: Local district sets the appraised values under rules set forth by agencies and legislators of the state. These figures are taken as to the value of that property as of January 1 each year. That rise in values does not automatically increase the taxes you will pay. It is the duty of each entity that collects that tax to set a rate to fund their services . As the values rise the opposite should occur. The tax rate should drop. When appraised values drop, as we will see in oil related values, the tax rate will increase


As we all know our appraised values increased substantially this past year. They are scheduled to increase again this year. Something we did not need even before the current Coronavirus situation reared it's ugly head. Last year we saw a huge increase in official protest hearings. Many blamed the local appraisal district for that increase. I did not and let me tell you why. House bill 1., appropriations bill, page III-5 states as follows: (d) and assumed increases in property values, and the estimates of local tax collections on which they are based, as estimated by the Comptroller of Public Accounts, of 5.76 percent for tax year 2019 and by 4.01 percent for tax year 2020.


The estimates identified in subsections (a) - (d) are projections provided by the Comptroller of Public Accounts and Texas Education Agency and used solely to determine initial state aid payments to school districts, and do not factor into the calculations of local tax base changes.


Actual property value changes are determined by local appraisal districts.


In addition to that as of January ,1 2020 our economy was booming which is when the values are taken for calculations. Also consider the past few years houses once selling for say $30,000 were in January selling for at least double that. Same circumstance for commercial properties and ranch and farm land. Many factors should be considered for the rise in appraised values. One, of course, is the rise in your properties value. One other factor you should understand: It is the duty of each taxing entity to set the tax rate. Just two years ago values rose substantially. We, as a court lowered the the taxing rate eight cents. In turn that lowers both the effective and rollback rates. Now with the current uncertainty we all face with revenue; decrease in sales tax, current oil market situation, etc. , we have to budget for basic county needs.


Please note that by adopting this resolution we are asking legislators to respond by freezing appraised values at last years rate.“


The resolution is as follows:


RESOLUTION FOR PROPERTY TAX RELIEF


WHEREAS, the coronavirus COVID-19 has been recognized globally as a dangerous contagious respiratory virus; and


WHEAREAS, President Trump has declared a national emergency to combat the COVID-19 pandemic; and


WHEREAS, Governor Abbott has declared a public health disaster in the State of Texas to battle the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 throughout our state; and


WHEAREAS, financial markets efforts to contain COVID-19 throughout the United States and the State of Texas, as well as internationally have resulted in a significant downward spiral of business, trade, and commerce in numerous segments of our economy; and


WHEREAS, oil and gas prices have declined to some of the lowest prices in recent history, thereby creating further economic downturn to our Texas economy; and


WHEREAS, small, medium, and large size businesses throughout Runnels County, regionally, and nationally are contemplating business closures, have been forced to close or limit operations, are considering major layoffs of workers, reductions in staff, and salary cuts in reaction to the economic devastation fueled by the COVID-19; and


WHEREAS, under the totality of circumstances many residents possess justifiable fears concerning whether they will be able to pay their home mortgages, keep their jobs, and pay their bills; and


WHEREAS, our local tax appraisal valuations. on homes, ranches, land acreage, property, and commercial business buildings in Runnels County as determined on January 1, 2019 significantly higher than in prior years; and


WHEREAS, governmental officials anticipate that such state-mandated local property tax valuations as determined on January 1, 2020 will set new record highs, with the average property valuation for taxation purposes in Runnels County exceeding a 10% increase (and in many instances substantially exceeding a 10% increase) over the same valuations set on January 1, 2019; and


WHEREAS, the actual fair market value of property in a true economic sense on the date of this Resolution, and for the foreseeable future is substantially less than tax appraisal valuations set on January 1, 2020.


WHEREAS, the increased property tax burden resulting from the heightened property valuations will harshly impact and compound the financial hardship to the citizens, taxpayers, and property owners within the county, and


WHEREAS, the perfect storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, the dangerous downturn in the economy at all levels, and the alarmingly ill-timed record high property tax appraisal valuations collectively pose a danger to the health, welfare, and safety of the residents of Runnels County


NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Runnels County Commissioners hereby recommends respectfully requests, strongly urges, and fully supports all state governmental officials, representatives, senators and directors of the Runnels County Appraisal District in taking immediate action to FREEZE all property tax appraisal valuations in Runnels County at levels set on January 1, 2019 and not in any way implement or utilize the significantly increased property tax appraisal valuations as determined on January 1, 2020; and


FURTHER, be it resolved that the Runnels County Commissioners Court hereby recommends, respectfully requests, strongly urges, and fully supports the Runnels County Judge in immediately working with stakeholders at all pertinent local, county, regional, and state levels for purposes of attempting to accomplish the preceding FREEZE resolution; and


FURTHER, be it resolved that the Runnels County Commissioners Court hereby recommends, respectfully requests, strongly urges, and fully supports the directors and the Runnels County Appraisal District and the Chief Appraiser in taking immediate action to stop an withhold the mailing of over 14,000 written notices of current property valuations until May 1, 2020 so as to provide all such state governmental officials, representatives, senators, and directors of the Runnels County Appraisal District with sufficient time to consider taking in furtherance of this FREEZE resolution.