Online Assessment Appeals Manage Surge

September 27, 2021 by Lily Rexing

Online Assessment Appeals Manage Surge

Ten years ago, the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District (FBCAD) became one of the first appraisal districts in Texas to offer online property value appeals. The public-friendly service enhanced transparency, increased access to information, and provided convenience for property owners.

When routine appraisal notices were distributed in April of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic was already influencing public perception around property values in the area. Many property owners believed the pandemic and economic fluctuations had a negative impact on their properties’ values. This led to a record number of appeals for FBCAD. That year, appeals jumped to nearly 90,000, a 25% increase over 2019 numbers. All told, nearly one quarter of the district’s 380,000 parcels were appealed.

New Collaboration

This naturally stretched the staff and district resources. Faced with an overwhelming appeals load, the district also had to comply with a new omnibus property tax law, necessitating changes to systems, processes, and workflows. Understanding that going it alone is harder in times of crisis, FBCAD reached out to other districts in the state to brainstorm how to improve operations in this context. A new exchange of information across districts allowed everyone to learn what was working and what wasn’t in order to pave a new path forward.

Portal Enhancement

These conversations led the FBCAD to initiate the Online Property Owner Portal Enhancement Project. Enhancements included tailoring the software to meet new regulations and allowing for increased electronic communication with the public. As a result of these and other improvements, online engagement increased by more than 300%. Citizens enjoyed a new level of customer service with quick online responses. Staff enjoyed the safety of online interactions during the pandemic as well as new efficiencies. With the improved experience, FBCAD completed a record number of appeals on time. The taxing units also benefited, as they could rely on FBCAD to provide a timely appraisal roll, allowing them to carry out their critical duties. This increase in productivity and efficiency ultimately saved the appraisal district hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and resources.

“These enhancements allowed us to process a record number of protests in a legally mandated short amount of time,” noted Rex Wogan, director of communications and outreach. “To ensure goals were being met on time, weekly meetings were scheduled to keep the level of communication consistent. This took precise coordination between all the appraisal departments as well as appeals, customer service, property records, and administration since virtually every department utilized online services in some way.”

Award for Excellence

FBCAD proved to be a leader among Texas appraisal districts and was awarded a 2021 Tyler Excellence Award for this successful collaboration. The district intends to build on the changes from 2020 to further streamline the protest processes, improve productivity, and increase efficiency.

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