Owners of apartments and commercial properties in El Paso who are already having a tough time because of the pandemic aren’t going to like the appraisal notices headed their way from the El Paso Central Appraisal District.

The CAD’s preliminary valuations have apartments and other multifamily property valuations rising 38% to $2.96 billion this year and commercial properties, including hotels, up 20.3% to $9.2 billion.

Home values were spared the increase, inching up just 2.1% to $21 billion in the city of El Paso.

“Not all the appraisal notices have gone out yet, and not everyone will get one when they do,” said David Stone, the CAD’s deputy chief appraiser. “If your value didn’t change, you won’t get a notice.

“If you’re a residential homeowner, and your value changes at all, you’ll get a notice. If you’re not a homeowner, you only get a notice when your value goes up over $1,000 if you have a business or some other type of property.”

Stone said he was not in a position to explain the increases in commercial and multifamily property valuations, but he noted that El Paso’s economy was doing very well before the COVID-19 pandemic brought business to a screeching halt from one end of the nation to the other.

And state law says the value of taxable properties must be based on their value on Jan. 1, regardless of what occurs the following day or in the coming months – including a pandemic and governmental countermeasures that have impacted businesses.

Stone said there may be actions the state can take to ease the pain in coming months, and he encouraged property owners to appeal their valuations to the Appraisal Review Board if they feel theirs is too high – even if it’s because of the pandemic.

The ARB has the wide legal latitude to take other factors into consideration beyond a property’s value on Jan. 1, he said.

“We’re fully expecting people to protest to the ARB,” Stone said, adding, “I would not expect that increase to hold up at the ARB.”

He added that the Texas comptroller’s office is required by law to accept property values set by an ARB, which would prevent the state from reducing a school district’s state funding if local property values fall too far below the comptroller’s estimates.

The CAD has extended the date by which business equipment, furnishings and other personal property must be rendered, or valued, by the business owner until May 15.

Jeff Siegel, a longtime tax agent in El Paso who represents property owners in contesting valuations before the ARB, is urging business owners hurt by the pandemic to seek disaster relief, even though it usually applies only to value lost due to physical damage, such as a hurricane.

“This is the only legal relief I think anyone has, but you have to file the form,” he said. “This is all unchartered territory for every business.”

Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 630-6622.


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