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The Travis Central Appraisal District has identified a new market data source that will allow it to reappraise residential properties in 2021 after a legal dispute with the Austin Board of Realtors prevented the district from doing so this year.
The TCAD board unanimously approved a new contract with Carahsoft Technology Corporation and TransUnion, which includes access to a new market data report.
"Given the information, we're optimistic that we'll be able to recalibrate our appraisal models for 2021," TCAD Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler said during a board meeting on Friday.
A hunt for data
Texas is one of 12 non-disclosure states in the U.S., which means real estate sales prices and other market data are not publicly available.
As a result, TCAD had previously relied on home-sales price data provided through third-party vendors. In 2018, the district signed a contract with CoreLogic, which had agreed to sell access to market data collected by the Austin Board of Realtors.
Last year, however, ABoR sent a cease-and-desist letter to TCAD, arguing that its market data was proprietary and preventing the district from accessing it further.
Although appraisal districts across Texas rely on other sources of data, such as sales questionnaires and title company inquiries, Crigler said TCAD was not able to gather enough information to recalibrate its models accurately without the ABoR data.
The district was able to access, on average, 95% of sales data between 2012 and 2019, according to data Crigler shared with the board. But in 2020 it could only access 15%.
In February, Crigler announced TCAD would not re-appraise residential properties in 2020 because it didn't have adequate market data to do so accurately and legally.
This was a big deal in a hot market. City budget documents show the median appraised home value increased more than 6% in 2019, and representatives from eight Travis County School districts said the decision would have negative effects on school funding, which is contingent upon property tax revenue. ABoR disputed this claim.
A new solution
Since then, Crigler told board members she has reached out to property appraisers "from Pennsylvania to California and all parts in between"—as well as some in Canada, the European Union and Asia—to ask about possible solutions.
An assessor's office in Cook County, Illinois, turned Crigler on to a new product from the Carahsoft Technology Corporation and TransUnion. Like the ABoR data, their market data report is proprietary.
After piloting a test of sample data to verify its accuracy over the summer, Crigler recommended that the TCAD board approve a contract with Carahsoft for the report.
"We feel confident that it is good market data that they are providing to us," she said.
The board voted unanimously to do so.
Because the state of Texas has pre-negotiated a contract with Carahsoft that includes this new product, Travis County will be able to purchase the product through the state.
The initial report costs $201,788 and TCAD estimates that subsequent quarterly reports will cost around $25,000 apiece.
This is significantly more expensive than the CoreLogic contract that TCAD had previously relied on, which Crigler said was around $25,000 annually.
But Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant, who is on the TCAD board, reasoned that the Carahsoft report is "a better product—and it's not a product that will get yanked from us."
Travis County homeowners can expect to receive their 2021 appraisal notices around April.
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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