Senator Bettencourt’s Prediction Correct – Judge Rules in Austin City Lawsuit

Judge Tim Sulak, of the 126th District Court in Travis County, denied the City of Austin’s effort to deny property owners due process in the City’s lawsuit to increase property values. Despite a 30% increase in appraised value over the last three years, over 19,000 property owners in Travis County will now be served, as part of the City’s lawsuit, to give them notice that the City thinks their property values are too low.

“As I expected, the court recognized the obvious and refused to let the City of Austin trample on the due process rights of property owners,” said Senator Bettencourt. “It now appears as if the City will do everything possible to appeal this ruling and double down on their efforts to deny due process to Travis County taxpayers.”

Over the last three years, taxpayers in Travis County have seen an almost 30% increase in their appraised values, and almost a 25% increase in their taxable value.

“In my letter to Judge Sulak, dated October 8, I highlighted the absurdity of the City of Austin’s claim that they should not have to serve defendants because it would cause ‘stress’, ‘confusion’, and ‘anger,’” continued Senator Bettencourt. “After seeing their taxable value increase by almost 25% in just three years, I can only imagine what taxpayers will say to the Mayor and City Council when they start to receive these notices.”

This suit will have far reaching negative effects throughout the state. Locally, thousands of commercial property owners will have to defend themselves against the effort by the City to increase their property values AFTER they have received their tax bills for 2015. On a statewide level, if the City is successful in having the equal and uniform remedies declared unconstitutional, all property owners in Texas will essentially be denied a reasonable means to ensure their property is appraised fairly compared to other properties.

“The Senate Finance Committee has been given a charge to study the property tax system because of abuses such as this,” said Senator Bettencourt. “This is an affront to taxpayers and I call upon the City of Austin to drop this outrageous lawsuit rather than continue with their appeal.”

The next hearing is scheduled for November 6th at 10:00AM. The hearing will deal with arguments made by the Comptroller and the Texas Association of Realtors in the case.