Before it was topping “best-of” lists, Austin was a sleepy town with a tight-knit community that was quick to lend a helping hand. While the city has undoubtedly grown, that spirit has stuck around – just ask the employees of Texas Protax.
The Austin-based company, a residential and commercial property tax consulting firm with offices in Austin and in Houston, does a lot of number crunching. It also happens to be a staunch supporter of Project Transitions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing, hospice, and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.
What’s the connection between taxes and Project Transition’s mission? Nothing at all, beyond a small company with a big heart.
For Texas Protax, it all started with a party. Seven years ago Greg Walden, a Texas Protax employee, invited the rest of the office to a fundraising party for Project Transitions, and since then the company has been a steadfast supporter.
Texas Protax is a straight-owned company, but its employees feel strongly about Project Transition’s mission of compassionate care.
“We’re financially conservative, but socially liberal,” says Debra Bawcom, a vice president with Texas Protax. “I’ve always been a big supporter of being who you want to be with, and having the right to be with who you want to be.”
Just as the 25-year old company supports Austin organizations, its roots are Austin-deep. All of its employees happen to be Austin natives – a happy coincidence, not a requirement of working there – something that gives Texas Protax a connection to the community it works with.
“Many of our agents are experienced former appraisal district employees,” Bawcom says. “We’re licensed as property tax consultants, and about half of our agents carry additional licensing: we have a few appraisers, and real estate folks on staff. I’m an attorney, and my dad (a partner in the company) is as well. So we have a broad spectrum of knowledge bases in the real estate community, and being from Austin we understand the Austin market.”
Right now things are heating up for Texas Protax. Tax appraisals have just been mailed out, and residential and commercial property owners have until June 2 to contest them. That’s where the company comes in – with its proprietary database system, they have access to all of the Travis Central Appraisal District’s information, and can help property owners contest taxes.
The database Texas Protax uses comes in handy when property tax reductions hinge on proving that a property owner’s assessment is out of line with those of adjacent properties. That’s often the factor that leads to a successful tax reduction, Bawcom says.
Chances are good the company will be busy this year. Many homeowners opened their envelopes from the appraisal district to learn their property taxes are skyrocketing; in some neighborhoods residents complain that their monthly tax payments are higher than their mortgage payments.
“You hear from everybody that Austin’s one of the fastest growing cities in the nation,” Bawcom says. “So appraisal districts are having a hard time keeping up. Values increased a lot from last year, and we expect this trend to increase into next year. We’ve been in a depressed market, and now it’s going up. When Austin recovers it recovers rapidly and very strong.”