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Hidalgo-County-SealAfter protesting, Winter Texan Dale Miller was able to get the property appraisal on his mobile home at Paradise Park in McAllen nearly cut in half, but he fears other Winter Texans won’t be so lucky.

In order to protest appraisal values, property owners must show up for a hearing during the summer, during the off-season.

But in a recent meeting with the Hidalgo County Chief Appraiser Rolando Garza and the OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System), Miller was told the county is following state law.

At Paradise Park, residents buy a life-long lease on their lots along with the units on the property. The property itself is still owned by the park.

The cost of the unit may be lower than the value of the lease, but unless the Appraisal District is presented with evidence showing the sale price of the property includes the purchase of the lease, taxes are based on the sale price.

Because the land in Paradise Park is not owned by the residents, they cannot be taxed on the value of the land if they show what they purchased the mobile home for and what they paid for their leases.

“The park is a unique situation,” Garza said.

While the period for contesting the value of mobile homes has passed for this year, anyone who can prove they were taxed on the value of the lease as well as the mobile home can present evidence next year and possibly get a reduction on taxes.

“We base our evaluations on what the units sell for and the condition of the units,” Garza said. “ We look for the sale prices of comparable units. A unit that has been well maintained and is still livable has a value even though organizations that show Blue Book values for mobile homes may not give it a value.”

Miller countered Garza’s statement by saying, “People are afraid to protest values,”

“They think the county will single them out for added costs in the future if they protest,” he said. “Many of the residents in my park are widows who have no idea how to go about entering a protest.”

OWLS member Virginia Townsend said an advocate for the elderly needed to be appointed to help those who do not understand the process.

Garza said that every protest received–there were 24,138 this year–will be reviewed by the Appraisal Review Board. Anyone wishing to protest property values during the protest period can find a protest application online at the Hidalgo County Appraisal District website.

Garza said values for mobile homes are not arbitrary, they are established though state guidelines. Each county appraisal district receives a guide from the State Comptroller’s Office in Austin with state guidelines on how to set property values. Each district must follow the guidelines sent by the state.

If a county’s appraisals are less that 95 percent of state recommendations overall, the city’s school districts are in put in jeopardy of not receiving full funding. The first year the city gets a warning. Because schools are financed on a bi-annual basis, no action is taken the second year. But if the problem is not corrected by the third year, school districts in the area that do not meet state code will lose some of their funding.

To illustrate this point Garza, provided a copy of a School and Appraisal District Property Value Study 2013 Report on Mission Consolidated Independent School District. The report showed total taxable value to be $1,777,681,139. The assigned taxable value was $1,687,233,921. A statement at the bottom of the form read, “The PVS found your local value to be valid and the local value was certified.”

Conversely, he showed a form for the Mercedes ISD. The value of commercial property was considered to be too low with a mean ratio of 0.9159. The statement on the bottom of their form read, “The PVS found your local value invalid, but local value was certified because your school district is in year one of the grace period.”

Garza said the problem in Mercedes is primarily due to the tax rate on the outlet mall. He explained that not all categories are reviewed each year. In 2014, the values of mobile homes were looked at and adjusted. Next year the values of commercial properties will be adjusted. When that is done, the problem in Mercedes will be corrected before the school district loses some of its funds.

Garza said that contrary to the opinion the local appraisal district was changing appraisals to get more money for county needs, the formula comes from the state, and he did not have any authority to change the system.

He said the system used for sales at Paradise Park in McAllen is unique and some adjustments may need to be made if residents provide the proper information.

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