A vice chancellor disputed Helotes’ disapproval resolution of the budget.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
The board of trustees approved the Bexar County Appraisal District’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget and a public resolution supporting the appraisal district’s efforts to fight “dark store” theory taxation through litigation that resulted in a budget increase for 2018 at the board meeting July 25 at Killen Center.
In an interview with The Ranger July 25, Diane Snyder, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the city of Helotes’ dispute of the appraisal district’s budget is one reason Alamo Colleges decided to draft a public resolution in support of the budget.
“The city of Helotes decided they wanted to dispute it, and so they produced a resolution and sent it to every other (district),” Snyder said. “So, all of us got it. When we saw what they wrote, we felt they were a little clueless on what they were talking about.”
In an interview with The Ranger Aug. 7, Helotes Mayor Thomas Schoolcraft said the Alamo Colleges’ board has the right to disagree with Helotes’ disapproval resolution just as the city has to the right to disagree with the appraisal district.
Schoolcraft said the Bexar County Appraisal District’s chief appraiser gave a presentation to the Helotes City Council.
Schoolcraft said he didn’t recall “dark store” theory litigation being a major reason the appraisal district’s proposed budget allocated funds for the $700,000 increase in litigation contingency.
Schoolcraft said the chief appraiser claimed several appeals were commercial, but Schoolcraft said the appraiser didn’t have the numbers to support the claim; Schoolcraft said residential appeals have been continuously increasing.
According to an emailed copy of the city of Helotes’ disapproval resolution from Grace Tamez, city of Helotes secretary, Helotes City Council was in opposition to the “… proposed increase of $700,000 in the ‘District’s General Reserve Fund to use as a litigation contingency. …”
According to the resolution issued by the Alamo Colleges’ board, the proposed appraisal district budget will increase by about 12 percent from FY 17.
During the July 18 committee of the whole meeting, Snyder said the budget increase would cost Alamo Colleges approximately $21,000 more than FY 17.
In an interview with The Ranger after the July 25 board meeting, Snyder explained the district shares the appraisal district’s costs because they are responsible for collecting the property taxes for Alamo Colleges.
The resolution states that the board is not required to approve the budget but “wished to show its support of the Bexar Appraisal District’s efforts to resist the so-called ‘Dark Store’ theories of appraisal.”
In the July 25 interview, Snyder explained Bexar County’s role in fighting “dark store” taxation theories and their impact.
“We had analyzed the budget, and the budget went up because Bexar County, on our behalf of all of our agencies, is fighting this ‘dark store’ problem that could severely restrict the business portion of our property taxes we get, and it would be unfair to shift the burden to personal homeowners, which we don’t believe in,” Snyder said.
The resolution states that “dark store” taxation theories would significantly reduce the value of commercial properties and shift the tax burden to homeowners in the county.
In the July 25 interview, Snyder said the taxation theory has been applied in Houston, Dallas and other states; Snyder said it would be expensive and detrimental to all Bexar County agencies, including Alamo Colleges, if they lose.
“If Bexar County loses, they’re going to have to pay all of the lawyer bills and everything for both sides,” Snyder said. “If they lose, we will get less; all agencies will get less taxes because the property value for businesses is what’s being litigated as if they were vacant rather than an operating business.”
Snyder said approval or the dispute of the appraisal district’s budget rarely comes before the board.
Snyder said the Alamo Colleges does not technically approve the budget and the appraisal district’s budget is rarely brought before the board or disputed.
“We look at it, and it seems reasonable. It’s not like we normally have anything that we’re concerned about. This one happened to be going up because of their main litigation cost to fight this.”