Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

13 November 2009

New Constitutional Amendment Provides for Uniform Assessment of Property Texas Throughout Texas

Last Tuesday, November 3, 2009, Texas voters passed 11 constituional amendments, many of which serve to preserve private property rights, and to equalize the manner in which ad valorem taxes are assessed against real estate in Texas.

Of particular importance to Texans paying property taxes was proposition 3, whose purposes was to remove the constitutional requirement that administrative and judicial enforcement of uniform standards and procedures for property appraisal originate in the county where the tax is imposed. Instead, the amendment sought to remove the requirement of local procedures for tax appraisals, and to give the Texas Legislature full discretion to prescribe the manner of the enforcement of uniform appraisal standards and procedures throughout the State.

The exact language of the proposed amendment was somewhat benign:
Amendment No. 3 (H.J.R. 36, Article 3) The constitutional amendment providing for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes.

Prior to adoption of this Amendment,Section 23(b), Article VIII, Texas Constitution, required that administrative and judicial enforcement of uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for property tax purposes, as prescribed by general law, originate in the county where the tax is imposed. This provision has been interpreted to mean that the state has little meaningful supervisory or administrative power over the standards and methods that local appraisal districts use to value property.

While the Texas property tax system has always been administered on the local level, it is undeniable that the state retains an interest in property tax appraisal professionalism and competence. The state also has an interest in the consistent determination of property tax appraised values from one locality to the next, through the application of uniform appraisal practices, because the state allocates funding to public schools based on the per-student aggregate taxable property value in each school district.

As do most things legal, property tax appraisal practices and procedures vary widely across Texas. A property located in one county is sometimes appraised much differently than a similar property located elsewhere in the state -- even in an adjoining County.

Prior to adoption of proposition 3, there was no legal basis for direct oversight of appraisal districts by the state. Thus, inequities in assessing and collecting taxes were local functions, and the state was powerless to directly require an appraisal district to follow state law or apply a standard appraisal method. This resulted in a hodge-podge of practices and non-standard procedures, which failed to ensure appropriate and accurate appraisals that determine the value of property for taxation purposes.

As a Texas attorney actively engaged in a real estate practice, I fervently believe that some degree of statewide uniformity and equity of appraisal processes is necessary. In my opinion, real property located in one Texas county should be appraised in the same manner and according to the same rules as similar property located in another Texas county. This is not to say that a "one size fits all" approach is best, but certainly amending the Texas Constitution to allow direct state enforcement authority and oversight of local appraisals was a positive step. With the recent passage of proposition 3, the state is allowed to oversee the appraisal system directly and take the necessary action to address inequities and inconsistencies in property appraisal.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers