Property Taxes

  • Golf course as wildlife refuge? PGA resort fights for another tax break

    PGA Front PageInvestigative Reporter Karisa King continues digging into the property tax system in Bexar County. She’s been examining how homeowners and businesses try to find ways to lower their property appraisals, which in turn lowers their tax bill.

    Her Sunday story disclosed how the owners of the PGA Tour golf resort, which was built after years of controversy, are now seeking lower property taxes by claiming the two golf courses provide a wildlife refuge for deer and birds:

    “I don’t think most people think of a golf course as a wildlife refuge,” said Mary Kieke, the county’s deputy chief appraiser. “Setting aside any insecticide and fertilizer contamination issue, clearing land for fairways cannot possibly enhance any wildlife’s access to shelter.”

    At stake are millions of dollars in future revenue for local taxing entities, including Bexar County, Judson Independent School District, University Health System and Alamo Colleges.

  • 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)


  • Search a Bexar County database to learn who’s disputing their property appraisals

    Homes in San AntonioUsing the Texas Public Information Act, reporter Karisa King obtained a huge database that tracks property tax protests in Bexar County and San Antonio. She analyzed the data and here’s what she found:

    Everybody wants lower property taxes. But those with the least ability to pay rarely protest their appraised values, while owners of upscale homes are far more inclined to fight their bills.

    The more costly your home, the more likely you are to protest, according to a San Antonio Express-News analysis of data from Bexar Appraisal District. …

    The story examines specific examples, and you can also search the data yourself.