construction

New construction at the Overlook at Creekside in New Braunfels. For a fifth consecutive year, Comal County property values will increase by double digits.

On Tuesday, the Comal Appraisal District accepted the resignation of its chief appraiser, who was on paid leave while the agency conducted internal investigations into allegations involving compensation and benefits filed by seven current employees.

Rufino Lozano was placed on paid administrative leave March 22 as the CAD was finalizing notifications of its 2022 preliminary property assessments to property owners. John Tyler, chair of the six-member CAD operations board, announced the move in a statement on Thursday.

Tyler said the board, during its monthly meeting, met with Lozano in executive session for about 10 minutes, with Lozano tending his resignation that board members accepted in open session.

Tyler, who last week defined the workplace allegations made against Lozano were of a “sensitive” nature, said Thursday it was “frustrating to hear” that some perceived the probe centered on Lozano’s character, instead of a administrative dispute involving employee pay, benefits and job duties.

Rufino Lozano

CAD Chief Appraiser Rufino Lozano

“I tried to clear that up when the board returned in open session – and why I and used the word ‘equity’ when it came to position appointments,” he said.

Lozano, 54, came to New Braunfels in March 2017 after a stint as San Patricio County’s top appraiser. He said he enjoyed leading the CAD before deferring all questions to the board.

“I have no official comment at this time,” he said.

Despite Lozano’s exit, the probes conducted by the CAD’s human resources department and a third-party outside investigator are still incomplete. Tyler said the seventh staffer came forward on Monday, the day before the board meeting. Last year, he counted between five and seven staffers who resigned due to COVID-19 and other issues.

Lozano received $146,000 in pay and benefits, according to the CAD’s $4.1 million annual budget. Its six-member board hires and fires chief appraisers who oversee administration of the agency and decides pay and duties for 35 employees.

The CAD, which assesses and certifies values of taxable properties for 34 taxing jurisdictions, projects 2022 values to rise between 30% and 50%, based on assessments as of Jan. 1, 2022. If certified in July, they will be the largest single-year increases in market and taxable values since the CAD was formed in 1980.

Four of Lozano’s five years saw average values increase by double-digit percentages; last year’s increased between 12% and 17%. But throughout his tenure, detractors claimed Lozano was heavy-handed with those filing protests (which saw more win than lose on appeal) and committed to over-valuating assessments – with the higher values leading to higher taxes.

Last year, for 2020, the CAD fell a hair under the 95%-105% recommended of all appraisal districts annually reviewed in Property Value Studies by the Texas State Comptroller office. Chris Kudrna, CAD director of operations, is now interim administrator for the district, which is supporting one local school district currently contesting CAD’s 94.5% mark. Tyler’s statement said the interim director will improve the employee equity and responsibility problems and also whittle down between 3,000 and 2,200 backlogged exemption requests awaiting processing.

“The board has immediately initiated a search for an interim chief appraiser and will continue to provide updates on this activity,” “Lastly, the board will immediately begin a search and advertisement for a permanent replacement,” Tyler said. It won’t happen soon, as the CAD board isn’t scheduled to meet again until June 7.

“While some disruption is anticipated, the board is confident service will remain of continued high quality and sincerely appreciate your support,” the statement said, adding, the board “would like to thank the employees for their continued hard work and dedicated service during this transitional time.”

The statement didn’t mention Lozano by name or title or his leadership during a five-year period in which district-wide taxable values increased from $16.121 billion to $32.616 billion since 2017.

Tyler said the board generally thought Lozano to be very “accommodating” in helping ease the transition, which includes 95,000 notices mailed to owners of 108,000 properties beginning next week.

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(21) comments

michael maurer

Central Appraisal Districts... brought to you by your very own elected official (not likely the same ones as those 42 years ago) that went before the state legislature to pass a law creating these appraisals. Back then, elected officials often got booted out of office for raising property values and sometimes pulling a double whammy and increasing the tax rate too. The got tire and took action. Unfortunately for taxpayers, there is only an illusion of separation between the appraisal district and the entities. Fact is, these taxing entities appoint the people they know who are not anti-taxers to the Board that oversees the appraisal district. Do board members actually contact these entities and see how much valuations have to rise in order to get more tax revenue in so the elected officials can keep saying " we did, t increase your tax rate"... ; "blame it on the appraisal district for raising valuations". That excuse by elected officials is hogwash. It is all connected. The county auditor sits at the table with the board members. The auditor appears to be the go between of the entities and the Board. I attended one board mtg when sherman Krause was the county auditor and present at the appraisal board meeting. He actually spoke of how much appraisals would have to go up to meet the needs of the taxing entities. I was shocked upon hearing that. I got up and went to the front counter and requested an open records of the recorded meeting. I never received that recording. These appraisals are crooked as those up in D.C. are. But then again, the State has pushed these appraisal district to re-evaluate property every year instead of once every three years. A Bexar Appraisal District employee told me that several years ago as every three years we would get a notice of the re-evaluation. The BAD employee told me after I had to fight the re-appraisal in two consecutive years that the State put pressure on the BAD to re-evaluate every years and the State threatened cutting some state aid to Bexar if they did not comply. The more moneys the counties bring in the more likely the State will cease or reduce funding certain things like indigent care and place that burden solely on counties, which allows the state to use that money elsewhere. Someone high up needs to investigate possible claims of collusion.

Bob Trautman

Mr. Maurer, much of what you say is factually true. But there is a greater story here. Do you own stock in any public corporation? What if that stock was taxed simply by virtual of market price increased. If you had 50k in IBM and stock appreciated in one year to earn you a unrealized gain of 20k, should you be taxed on that gain if you did not sell your stock? The answer is of course NO! The Texas property tax system and out of control. Taxing properties on unrealized market gains is fundamentally wrong! The State games the system. They cut funding to local governments and push market values to make up the difference and more. Texas GOP are destroying Texans and communities standard of living. They get folks excited with guns, abortion, immigration, etc to get your emotional vote and then turn around reach in your pocket, steal you wealth and then smile as they turn around to leave with a departing salutation of don’t forget to vote for me next year partner…..,,wake up!

Paul Shoemaker

So what are the facts that we know:

• That Rufino Lozano, a registered Democrat, was heavy-handed with those filing protests and committed to over-valuating assessments – with the higher values leading to higher taxes.

• That property owners saw more wins than losses on appeal, essentially proving that the CAD was making systematic overvaluations.

• CAD’s are a bureaucratic government agencies, known to make numerous errors and systematic errors in appraising properties.

• The CAD errors almost always favor the tax jurisdiction.

• The CAD’s attitude to errors and systematic errors is, so what. Meh, go file a protest.

• There are no consequences for the CAD in over stating appraisals, ever.

Edmond Manchester

For such a small number of commenters on this issue and property taxes in general, there are a bunch of mouth breathers chiming in. I haven’t seen one person display any actual knowledge of how the property taxes work in TX. I really hope you neanderthals don’t vote.

Paul Shoemaker

Enlighten us oh great one.

Edmond Manchester

My advice would be to stop spewing nonsense. Not knowing something is normal, but pretending you do and taking the time out of your day to post what you don’t know is foolish.

Here is a little info about property taxes in TX (but don’t take my word for it. Do your own research):

- Every appraisal district in TX must follow the same laws. The most important is appraising at full market value (Tax Code, Title 1, Subtitle D, Chapter 23, Subchapter A).

- Every appraisal district is scored by the TX comptroller. If you research how Comal did in 2021, they were at 95% of market value on residential properties. In other words, even with the huge increases the county is seeing, the appraisal district is still underappraising. If any appraisal district decides to “be nice” and not appraise at full market value, the staff will be replaced with people who will. So please be nice to appraisal district staff next time you are upset that your shitbox mobile home increased in market value.

- For anything to change on how property is appraised and taxed, it must be legislated. That would be your state Reps and Senators passing legislation that then needs to be signed by the Governor. But hey, complaining on the internet will probably work better than calling your Rep and Senator.

- If Comal value increases are political in nature, then why is the same thing be happening in democrat run Travis County? Lookup the kxan article “Never seen anything like this: realtors caution dramatic tax bill hikes for new homeowners.”

- The 10% increase limit only applies to residences with homestead exemptions and only applies to assessed value, not the market value. There is no limit on how high or low the market value for any given property can be appraised at from year to year.

- The appraisal districts value is only half of the equation to how your taxes are calculated. The taxing bodies (county, school districts, etc.) set a tax rate every year. You might want to pop in to one of those meetings sometime.

Like I said, don’t take my word on any of this. I learned most of this by calling the appraisal district when I bought s house here in TX. The rest can be researched online pretty easily. Property taxes suck but if they weren’t based on market value, everyone would partying at how much their real estate investments have matured the last 6 or 7 years.

Paul Shoemaker

Funny how you left out how properties are appraised: Cost Approach, Sales Approach, and Income Approach. It seems that if you don’t know how the property was appraised or can see the appraisal report one really doesn’t know how the appraisal value was reached or if it is correct. But that’s the whole point what is fair mark value. Especially when CAD’s have been proven in the protest process to have no basis in an actual appraisal. The CAD valuation is more of a mathematical process of backing into the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of the tax jurisdictions.

Paul Shoemaker

Riddle me this bar man

https://www.foxnews.com/us/type-utah-home-1-billion-phone-keyboard.amp

Paul Shoemaker

https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/article/Check-your-square-footage-for-appraisal-district

A recent review of homes in The Woodlands revealed that almost every home was listed with incorrect square footage.

Interestingly, the errors appeared to consistently be in favor of the taxing authority, and some in excess of 130 percent of the actual square footage. Some homes had been assessed, in error, with 1,200 square feet or more of extra living area that resulted in thousands of dollars of overcharges per home-per year.

Apparently, this has been going on for years. Yet, the appraisal district has elected to not make it easy for the homeowner to catch these mistakes.

This could be easily accomplished by including the appraisal districtís calculation of your living area square footage on the "Notice of Appraised Value" document that you receive each year.

Never have they publicized that living area square footage is a key ingredient for calculating the market value and taxes on your home.

Their explanation is that the law does not require them to do so.

Guilty until proven innocent.

Paul Shoemaker

Perhaps something illegal happened at the Comal CAD as a Texas county appraisal distict may not increase the appraised value of a homestead by more than 10% in a given tax year. The homeowner's property tax is based on the county appraisal district's appraised value of the home. Technically, a Texas homestead's assessed value is limited to the lesser of either its market value or the sum of the market value of any new improvements and 110% of the appraised value of the preceding year.

Something is not right at the Comal CAD.

Bob Trautman

I heard a class action lawsuit is being discussed.

Bob Trautman

[beam] This County, City and school district are owned by Republicans. They are in control. There is nothing wrong with your property taxes. Do not attempt to adjust your property taxes through appeals. We control the property taxes. If we wish to raise them, we will instruct our chief appraiser, if we wish to reduce taxes, we will consider it. We will control the horizontal distribution of taxes, we will control the vertical distribution of taxes. We can increase the tax rolls, we can change the focus on our activities to a soft blur or allow crystal clarity. For the remainder of your life sit quality and we will control all you will see and hear. You are participating in a great Texas GOP adventure. You will experience the awe and mystery which reaches the inner mind to the Texas GOP OUTER LIMiTS.

Paul Shoemaker

Rufino Lozano a registered Democrat systematically increased property values on the vast majority of Comal county property owners. In somecases over 300%. As an example the 3,000 square foot home that was valued at $500K in 2021 is now over $1 million in 2022, and the owner's taxes are going from $8,000 to over $16,0000. This was done to nearly all property owners in Comal county with the full knowledge of Rufino Lozano, the chief appraiser, and the impact that it would have on the property owners of Comal county. He did it, that is a fact. Now we also know that Rufino Lozano a did something unspeakable at his job and resigned. Good Grief as if taking the hard earned money from Comal county property owners wasn't enough.

Bob Trautman

Mr. Lozano is an employee. He was hired for this position. He gets his marching orders from the appraisal board. Focus on the bigger problem - the actions of the appraisal board and the instructions received by taxing entities that put them there.

Michael Harwell

We've lived in Comal County for almost 30 Years and thought we've seen it all.Our 4 Properties went up 1.1 Million in one Year?

Rural Land went from $35,000 per acre to $97,000 per acre.House went from $440,000 to $615,000..These Tax increases will probably be the final Straw for many..Over the Years,there has been a consistent increase in values and the Appraisal District would be reasonable if you protested plus they would keep the Appraisal under Market value. Everyone wants to live in Comal County but this jump in one Year makes you suspicious on who's running the Show?

Politics should be kept out of Tax Payers hard earn Money.

We need to roll back everyone's Taxes to last Year's and reevaluate Property Appraisal's.

Jim Sohan

There is so much going on here that is reflective of the fact free partisan fighting that goes unabated nowadays. First off, if he actually is a registered Democrat, what does that have to do with anything? Unless you’re implying he ensured valuations were selectively raised excessively on Republican households, while valuation increases were kept smaller or non-existent on Democratic households. The latest conspiracy theory? His position is basically an appointed position, not an elected position. Or is it the false narrative that all Democrats want to raise taxes? Second, why not call for Greg Abbott to be investigated for high property taxes and excessive valuation increases state-wide? After all, he is the chief executive officer in the state. He has promised to reduce or eliminate property taxes at various times over the past 9 years, but has never followed through on any of those promises. Yes, I know he’s going to call a Special Session of the Legislature to address property taxes — I’ll hold my breath. The underlying factor in property values, as well as oil prices, is supply and demand. Greg Abbott continues to encourage businesses and Republicans from blue states to relocated to Texas, which increases demand and drives down supply, thus contributing to the increase in property values. So, why not argue he’s at least partial responsible as well? Third, what does “… deflecting” to “grooming kids while “protecting” them from their parents …” have to do with property valuations in Comal County? Oh wait, it does exactly what the Democrats are accused of, changes the subject to some other red meat topic to stir up the base and get that whataboutism going again. Maybe rather than speculating the reasons for his resignation, we should wait to hear the facts before getting in a tizzy over something none of clearly have the details on at this time. And while we're at it, maybe get back to some fact based discussions and decision making vice accepting whatever is thrown at us without questions, regardless of your party.

Jim Sohan

Greg Abbott might be a better choice if you want to investigate someone when it comes to property taxes.

Richard Hidalgo

Typical Democrat procedure, deflect to a new narrative and prosecute on that narrative. Will grooming kids while "protecting" them from their parents be the next subject?

Bob Trautman

Better yet, vote little Abbott and LT Dan out of office!

Paul Shoemaker

Based on what he did to property assessments probably need to investigate him for larceny. Cause he’s certainly trying to steal from me.

Paul Shoemaker

Rotini Lozano a registered Democrat did something unspeakable at his job and resigned. I believe l know what he did. He more than doubled property tax assessments through out Comal county most likely annoyed his co-workers.

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