Property Appraisals: Computer Models Took Away Our Freedom, Now They’ll Confiscate Our Wealth

OPINION — The appraisal district is in hot water ever since the valuations for the FY2024 tax year were released this month. According to the Tom Green County Appraisal District, property owners — primarily homeowners — saw their property’s appraised values increase between 19 and 35 percent.

That did not sit well with anyone and citizens began organizing via social media. Over 1,000 property owners showed up yesterday to the first meeting of one of two appraisal review boards to protest what many said were unfair and arbitrary increases to property values during this year’s appraisals.

The protests were a bit early and this was the first and organizational meeting of this ARB, one of two being set up this year to handle protests. ARBs do not set policy but review each citizen protest. It is made up of citizen volunteers. The ARB could do absolutely nothing to quell the rebellion yesterday. Regardless of that, property owners are angry and will show up in big numbers to make their voices heard.

Chief among the mob’s complaints were that Mayor Brenda Gunter’s land value of her home decreased significantly while her neighbors’ land increased in value. Many cried “Corruption!”

Both chief appraiser Tyler Johnson and Mayor Gunter denied any collusion over the appraisal of her home. Besides, as a public figure, the mayor has the ability to have her public information removed from public websites such as the appraisal district’s property valuation listings. In fact County Judge Lane Carter has hidden his home’s valuation from the appraisal district website for his own safety, we were told. As for the mayor, however, her information is there for the entire public to view. She isn’t hiding anything, and because of that, we believe her.

Address Acres Total 2022 Total 2023 Total % Increase Land 2022 Land 2023 Land % Increase
503 S Bishop 0.157 $190,040 $201,460 6.01% $13,700 $45,260 230.36%
505 S Bishop 0.161 $175,430 $186,310 6.20% $13,990 $46,210 230.31%
509 S Bishop 0.161 $168,760 $181,620 7.62% $13,990 $46,210 230.31%
511 S Bishop 0.241 $457,370 $493,320 7.86% $20,990 $56,450 168.94%
525 S Bishop 0.241 $213,890 $393,630 84.03% $31,480 $59,450 88.85%
615 S Bishop 0.647 $710,450 $742,700 4.54% $81,679 $105,650 29.35%
630 S Bishop 0.304 $470,920 $522,900 11.04% $25,470 $75,000 194.46%
635 S Bishop
(Mayor)
1.286 $1,236,380 $1,173,510 -5.09% $112,030 $39,920 -64.37%

The mayor’s valuation differences did encourage us to look at other correlations in the data for this year’s appraisal and we may have found a common theme.

Lots that are one acre or less in size saw massive increases in valuations this year. While lots greater than one acre saw valuation decreases. This is what happened to the mayor’s home on S. Bishop St. Every other home nearby is situated on a small, one-acre or less lot. Those properties saw massive increases in valuation.

Mayor Brenda Gunter’s home is on a large, 1.286-acre lot. Her land value actually decreased. And her lot was the only one on S. Bishop to go down in value. We suspect this is because her lot size was greater than one acre.

We tested our theory on a random street in Bentwood called Imperial Court. On that street, the two homes on lots sized greater than one acre saw a greater than 50 percent decrease in value. All of the other homes on that street were on lots sized less than one acre. For those on small, less-than-one-acres lots, the land values skyrocketed 24 to 51 percent.

Address Acres Total 2022 Total 2023 Total % Increase Land 2022 Land 2023 Land % Increase
5601 Imperial Ct 1.042 $218,900 $902,420 312.25% $70,000 $33,340 -52.37%
5602 Imperial Ct 1.057 $1,050,540 $1,067,890 1.65% $75,000 $33,820 -54.91%
5605 Imperial Ct 0.739 $935,600 $1,022,750 9.31% $72,500 $104,650 44.34%
5606 Imperial Ct 0.450 $684,510 $819,280 19.69% $70,000 $101,670 45.24%
5609 Imperial Ct 0.823 $1,017,820 $1,116,570 9.70% $72,500 $89,930 24.04%
5610 Imperial Ct 0.494 $768,820 $931,740 21.19% $70,000 $96,190 37.41%
5613 Imperial Ct 0.854 $804,500 $964,300 19.86% $72,500 $93,400 28.83%
5614 Imperial Ct 0.543 $913,360 $1,032,660 13.06% $70,000 $105,660 50.94%
5617 Imperial Ct 0.751 $848,150 $934,430 10.17% $70,000 $105,660 50.94%
5618 Imperial Ct 0.545 $1,006,120 $1,058,520 5.21% $70,000 $106,050 51.50%
5622 Imperial Ct 0.526 $961,060 $1,089,210 13.33% $70,000 $102,480 46.40%

Chief Appraiser Johnson said his office was forced to re-appraise every inch of land in Tom Green County this year using a different data model, or algorithm. I realize correlation doesn’t equal causation, but let me tell you, San Angolans are sick and tired of being judged by some unaccountable computer model or algorithm.

It is an algorithm on Facebook that puts you in Facebook jail. Say the wrong thing on social media and a computer shuts off your ability to speak. You have no recourse. Now the computers are seemingly unfairly taxing us! You know that what you pay in property taxes is the multiplication of your appraised property value times the tax rate. If a computer is unfairly setting your property value higher, then isn’t that taxation without representation? Are we going to turn loose the California Facebook-like algorithms to take away our wealth?

Even State Representative Drew Darby is suspicious. In a prepared statement he issued late Thursday, Darby said:

“I, too, am very troubled by the increases. I want to let you know that I am communicating with our local elected officials and the Appraisal District. The appraisal process is flawed, and hopefully we can, together, urge the Appraisal District to reconsider these dramatic increases.”

In Tom Green County we should be very wary of unleashing a computer algorithm to determine how much we will pay in taxes. The computer seems to have used quite arbitrary and unfair methodology to tell us how much we have to pay in taxes next year. It is bad enough to be silenced on social media by arbitrary and unaccountable algorithms. It is another thing to see our wealth confiscated with the power of government that is deploying similar arbitrary algorithms.

We elected our officials. Will any official other than Drew Darby stand up for the people who elected them?

Mayor Brenda Gunter didn't hide when citizens called her out about her home's lot decreased appraisal value. She was the first one to attend the Thursday protest at the appraisal district and she faced the voters.

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Wow that is 3/4 jibberish, but i cant wait to see how the masses take to the aggie defending the mayor.  

Pardon me, Queen Algorithm. Did you just tell me that,  because I don't own as much property as my neighbor I should be shamed into paying more than a "fair share"? I do believe this could be viewed as a setup for a Monopoly.  Those are illegal for humans to do, but let's say it's the computer program.  Sooner or later, higher taxes force the peasants to sell cheap. Who cares that the peasants suffer.  Let them live elsewhere. 

Drew Darby may appear to be supporting us over these property taxes. He was however one of many in the Texas House that voted to investigate establishing a mileage “fee” (tax). That would possibly require installation of equipment that would track where and how far we travel in order to add a new tax.

Great reporting Joe.  Now let’s look into the ELECTIONS algorithms and make sure our votes are counted correctly.  Or at all.  

Our property is also greater than one acre and TRIPLED in value. There is NO REASON the mayors didn't receive an increase just like EVERY other property owner in TGC.

I should think that a home in the same subdivision would/should have the same per acre value as it's neighbor.  If you apply the math, that said the value per acre in Bentwoods example comes to 32,000 per acre - giving the 3rd example a value of apprx. 23,650 as well as a similar value to a few others in the example. In the case of the Mayor's property, hers is valued at approximately 31,000 per acre which would make those at 505 & 509 Bishop apprx. 5000.  If I apply that to my value in the rural area I live in, my neighbors increased to 26,500 per acre (for rural property-?), however I cannot protest as they've already applied the max 10% to my property - but I'm probably looking at an increase next year to get me closer to their per acre value - something is terribly wrong with the math used by the Appraisal District. Additionally, there has been some serious mis-calculations in previous years if you look at some of those land values.

Referring to the protesters as a "mob" and the protest as a "rebellion".  Give me a break. Think about what verbiage you use when you write.  This was not a "rebellious mob"  seeking anarchy. These were concerned agitated citizens who have a legitiment complaint to the city.  LIVE is always seeking to sensationalize anything to sell stories.  Also based on how you viewed what was happening, I got to wonder who's side you're on?  You sound like left wing media painting the citizens as fascist! 

Ah, yes. It's worded as if the people at large had correctly identified their oppressors and then worked with a unified resolve to break the backs of those oppressors against the weight of their indignation, striking fear into the warped hearts of those monsters and bringing about reform through the streaks of terror that ran cold through the nerves of the powers that be.

Luckily, there was none of that! Whew!!

As crazy as id hoped the election denier, the republican talking point spewer and everyone hating on the mayor. Thanks joe you bring out the crazys 

There's nothing crazy about wanting lower taxes, a real president in the white house and of course our very own political representatives here in Tom Green county to do things the legal and proper way. Good day to you, white knight for the idiot savants.

Agree on property tax I’ll pass on all the conspiratorial nonsense, as fun as it must be.  One day we will have a real candidate which should lead to a real president sadly it dosent look like 24 will be that year. 

I don't live in SA anymore but here in Galveston county I have to protest the valuations on my house as they annually try to raise my value 20-35%.  The valuations have to be based on sales prices within the last 6 months and you have a right to the comps they used for equivalent property.

This is what happens when republicans run things, lower taxes for the rich only to raise them for everyone else.

Just so you know the appraisal district, the people in charge of this total fuck up is non partisan. You really should stop commenting. It makes you look more dumb than you already are.

The people who run this state/county/city are not. No Democrat even ran in the last two city/county elections, and Texas has been ran by republicans for over 20 years now. If you are having issues in texas its because of the republicans that run the place.

Sorry Mr YouTube, just because you don't like democrats doesn't make republicans NOT responsible for their own states.

Just so you know Texas has the 9th largest economy in the world. If we let a Democrat run things we'd be bankrupt just like DC is. Which is led by dumb ass liberal democrats... We are plenty responsible that's why we still have MONEY.

Yep, and he's a republican that republicans refuse to remove from office despite numerous crimes. 

If he was a Democrat republicans would be up in arms right now.

When people on this site remind everyone that the leadership in the area is overwhelmingly Republican, I think of George Santos - poking his fellow Republicans with his RINO horn. 

As much as I despise the current crop of Republicans who are either morons or lack the courage to voice how they really feel about the neo-fascist Trump, they don't deserve the contamination of George Santos.

Wait... yes, they do.  He is a product of Trumpism, and with feckless putzes like McCarthy refusing to support kicking clowns like Santos to the curb, proof continues to accumulate that a party once worthy of respect is rotting from the inside.

My household recently experienced a refrigerator failure.  Even after putting dry ice blocks in the thing to try to salvage food in advance of repair, we were forced to toss darn near all of the stuff the fridge contained.  Some things had gone VERY far south, and the smell was, shall we say, less than pleasant.

It reminded me of the stench of the current Republican party.  It's rotting.

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