Property appraisals for 2019 have swept over Kerr County and they have seen a significant increase compared to past years.
Sharon ConstantinidProperes, the chief appraiser for the Kerr Central Appraisal District, said property appraisals have gone up an average of 9 percent in the county.
But deputy chief appraiser Mike Comer said it's important to remember that this average does not mean each house has risen 9 percent in value.
"As an average, it's basically meaningless to an individual because it also includes new value that's on the roll, such as new houses or commercial buildings," Comer said.
Many people have seen much higher increases than 9 percent. Comer said KCAD does not know specifics about which geographical areas or neighborhoods have the most significant increases, but lower-priced houses might have seen more of an increase.
"I think our lower-priced homes are the ones that have gone up the most percentage-wise because that's what people are wanting," Constantinides said.
Comer added that deciding property appraisals is based on the state of the housing market and supply and demand. If there's more demand, prices rise.
Someone who has seen a significant increase in property appraisal is Ronny Gazaway, who commented on The Kerrville Daily Times's Facebook page.
"(I) had an unimproved piece of property that went up 216 percent," Gazaway said. "It's probably so they can pay for the school bond that got passed this year."
According to Amy Dozier, the chief financial officer for the City of Kerrville, it's important to note that increasing property appraisals does not mean increasing tax rates.
"Our property tax rate has stayed the same, and depending on whether your property tax appraisal went up or down, that would determine whether or not your property tax bill went up or down," she said.
The KCAD — which is regulated by the state comptroller — makes property appraisals independently from the city government and does not have any hand in making tax rates.
"KCAD is not controlled by the taxing entities; there's an arm's length relationship there," Dozier said. "That's to protect the independence of the appraisal district and create a separation of duties between the property valuation duty and the rate-setting function."
Job availability is a factor when it comes to average housing valuations, said Kerrville Economic Development Corporation chief operating officer Gil Salinas.
"Having a more diverse economy helps drive the growth of home valuations," Salinas said.
Kerrville has a healthy mix of jobs — and thus, a diverse economy — he added. It's the KEDC's job to increase diversity in the economy to grow so that jobs and housing valuations can support each other.
"If home valuations in the community are increasing and the jobs that are being created are not being reflective of that increase, then we're just playing catch up," Salinas said. "Then what happens is that the jobs that being created within that particular community, people that are working in those companies can't afford to live in that community."
Something else that could affect Kerr County's rising housing valuations is the fact that it is a popular retirement destination, Constantinides said.
"People want to come to the Hill Country, and that drives prices up," she said. "We are in a desirable area."
If a property owner thinks that their property was appraised inaccurately, they can dispute it. Constantinides said KCAD is very open to people disputing their housing valuations, especially since each property is unique and may have some sort of feature the owners know about that KCAD didn't consider.
"What we do is mass appraisal," Constantinides said. "We gather information, build our schedules and apply it to the houses. There may be a situation with your house that we're not aware of, so when the taxpayer comes in and discusses with us — brings pictures — we work with them to try to resolve the issue."
KCAD usually has about 1,500 to 2,500 property owners dispute property appraisals. KCAD sent out 16,214 property appraisals this year.
"Most people come in, talk to our appraisers," Constantinides said. "When they protest, we show them our information and once they understand, a lot of them are happy and they don't go through with the protest."
To dispute, mail in the protest form that KCAD mailed to each homeowner, or go online to kerrcad.org. Disputers can also come into the office — 212 Oak Hollow Drive in Kerrville — Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All disputes must be filed by May 15.