Ask Chief Appraiser Jerry Lee of the Erath County Appraisal District why the appraised value of property in Erath County has gone up so much and his reply will be simple.

“Market values keep going up and we have to keep going up to keep up with them,” Lee said.

While taxpayers may not think that answer is good enough, Lee wants them to understand that the tax estimate reflected on the notices of appraised value recently mailed by the Appraisal District is not the amount of tax that will be owed when tax notices are mailed in October.

“The tax law requires that we make the estimate based on last year’s tax rate,” he said. “We know that the school tax rate will drop from the $1.37 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operation to $1.00 or $1.04.”

Erath County Tax Assessor/Collector Jennifer Carey said under House Bill 1, the 33-cent decrease in the school district’s tax rate applies only to maintenance and operation - not to the tax rate for debt repayment.

“People look at the notice and see the estimated taxes and they are way up from what they were last year,” she said. “It is not going to be that much because tax rates are dropping. The Truth in Taxation Law says the effective tax rate for 2007 should produce the same dollar amount as the taxes from previous year, which should cause the tax rates to drop.”

Lee said commercial appraisals increased at a higher percentage than residential rates, but he would not give an exact percentage of increase on either. He also said the appraisals increased on land for everyone.

“There are too many factors that go into it to determine an actual percentage increase overall,” he said. “The amount of increase will vary depending on the size of the living space, the size of the garage, size of the porches and storage buildings.”

Carey added that “Percent Market Change from 2002” reflected on the notice can be misleading because some exemptions may change.

“This doesn’t give the taxpayer useful information - it just makes them mad,” she said.

Property owners who question the appraised value reflected on the notice should first try to resolve the difference by contacting the Appraisal District office by phone or in person.

If a satisfactory resolution is not reached, the property owner may complete the protest form on the reverse side of the notice and return it by the date indicated under “Notice of Appraised Value” at the top of the notice.