How to lower your property taxes: miniature donkeys?

2009 Prairie Home Carriage Festival at Dakota City Heritage Village

Texas relies heavily on property taxes to raise revenue, and homeowners have a right to protest the appraised value of their land set by county officials. The lower the appraisal, the lower the tax bill.

Express-News Reporter Karisa King has been examining a county database that tracks protests filed by homeowners. She obtained the data through a request under the Texas Public Information Act.

Her first story showed how wealthy homeowners were more likely to protest their property appraisals. In today’s front-page story, she focused on how some homeowners take advantage of agricultural exemptions to drastically lower the value of their land. Karisa found an unusual example of such a case:

About 20 minutes north of downtown, a tall stone wall obscures the view of a 23,000-square-foot mansion that sits on about 30 acres of prime land.

Like many other owners of upscale homes in Bexar County, Robert and Sandora Kolitz, who built a multimillion-dollar luxury compound on Bitters Road, have fought to lower their property taxes. But they’ve had unusual success. This year, they slashed roughly $50,000 from their $236,000 tax bill. It’s a benefit they’re now entitled to receive every year.

The key to their savings: miniature donkeys.

The small herd of about 18 donkeys allows the Kolitzes to claim an agricultural valuation on most of their land, which drops the taxable value of the parcel from about $2.2 million to $2,350.

In other words, the agricultural designation means the home and land, which are listed as having a total market value of $10.6 million, are assessed at $8.4 million.

The property is one of the most costly and contentious homes in Bexar County.

The Express-News posted the Bexar County database of appraisal protests on its Web site. You can search the data yourself, and look up who exactly has protested their property appraisal, the value of their property, and how much their appraisal was lowered.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmarkham)


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