After a outcry of frustration and anger from homeowners upset with rising property taxes last year, the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District is trying to make things right by helping taxpayers to understand the process and make it easier to appeal its decisions.
At Tuesday’s Fort Bend County Commissioners’ Court meeting, FBCAD chief appraiser Jordan Wise presented a workshop on how residential and commercial properties looked in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussed FBCAD’s new programs and services to help homeowners and business owners to properly protest the district’s findings.
“We want to focus on communication, outreach and transparency,” Wise said. “We are working on not being as closed off as an office as we have historically been.”
Wise said that the district is installing new values that describe the role of the appraisal district and how it affects with assessing property and how people can find ways to reduce their property taxes.
Also, FBCAD have created places on their website (www.fbcad.org) that can help homeowners to apply for a homestead exemption and appeals for those to protest their appraisal.
“We have tried to make it as easy as possible to file a protest with the appraisal board,” Wise said.
Even though the protest deadline isn’t until May 17, Wise said that he doesn’t expect to see a rise of protests from last year, when several protests were filed as homeowners were angry with rising property taxes while businesses were shut down during the early stages of the pandemic. Wise said that over 2,500 protests have already been filed this year.
“Last year was a record level; we did have a 24% increase (in protests), about 8,600 protests,” Wise said. “But part of what we’ve done is to make it as easy as possible for someone who feels their appraisal is not accurate and work with people who want to protest.”
Wise also talked about the trends that Fort Bend County saw with residential and commercial properties. Despite the uncertainty in real estate in 2020, the county still saw robust growth last year, with 21.3% growth in new construction, including 50% growth in the Lamar Consolidated ISD area of the county.
Residential market values in Fort Bend grew from $284,872 last year to $303,317 this year, a difference of 6.47%. With the homestead exemption, values increased 4.6%.
Wise said that the keys for the market were low interest rates, economic stimulus from the federal government and a demand of better amenities for those working from home. That overcame some downward trends in costs of building materials and loss of labor due to the pandemic.
Fort Bend also saw new growth in commercial properties with the building of two Amazon fulfillment centers, with one in unincorporated Richmond and another in Missouri City, along with a Dollar Tree distribution center that is now open in Rosenberg.
Most of the new business construction growth in the county is in the Fort Bend ISD part of the county (62%), but there were 30 new accounts this year in LCISD, which makes up 19% of the new construction in the county.
“We’re seeing that Fort Bend County continues to be a place where people want to live in and do business in, and we expect it to continue being one of the fastest growing counties in the state,” Wise said.