DALLAS - Moody's Investors Service said last week that a fourth consecutive yearly drop in Dallas County property values continues to pressure local agencies as they finalize fiscal 1993 budgets.
Moody's analysts said in a statement that despite $1 billion in new residential and commercial property, many Dallas County taxing districts continue to see a decline as existing property values keep falling two years after many local officials predicted a rebound would begin.
"We're just noting that this negative trend is continuing and that it's something we're concerned about," said Steve Levine, assistant vice president and supervisor at Moody's, which issued the statement after the latest appraisals were finalized. Over the next 60 days or so we'll be reviewing the credits there."
Moody's reported that county-wide property values have fallen $12.9 billion or 11.5% from their peak 1989 level. Many blame the continued slide on the Resolution Trust Corp., the federal agency charged with disposing a failed thrifts.
"The RTC continues to put depressed properties on the market," said Winston Evans, director of the Dallas Department of Revenue and Taxation. "You've got so much space on the market, it has an effect on rents and development."
Other officials agree, saying that overcapacity continues to stem the need for new office space. The first new complex built in downtown Dallas since the 1980s oil bust is the recently opened headquarters for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
"There is no incentive to build when you have existing buildings that the RTC can dump for half the cost of building new space," complained one local government official, who asked not to be identified. "They could sell those properties without driving us into the ground."
But a spokesman for the trust corporation rejected a was hurting property values, noting that the agency paid nearly $100 million in property taxes to Texas governments last year.
"The RTC is tired of being the whipping. boy for all the problems that occurred economically in this state," said Teresa McUsic, spokeswoman in the agency's Dallas office. "I don't think our impact is that great because our portfolio [of properties] is small all over Texas."
She said that after selling $3.3 billion of properties since opening in 1989, the agency still holds $5.3 billion of assets. That figure represents about 1.2% of the total property values statewide, she explained.
While many concede the worst fallout from the mid-1980s bank failures in Texas may be over, they are not certain when property values in North Texas may begin a strong recovery. Already, values are improving statewide.
Texas Comptroller John Sharp reported earlier this year that statewide property values had risen 2.5% to $667 billion in 1991. Among the state's six economic regions, the Gulf Coast area, which includes Houston, showed the strongest recovery with a 3.9% increase in values.
At the same time, the Metroplex, the region that includes Dallas and Fort Worth, showed a decline of 0.8% to $202.5 billion. However, the sharpest drop was in the state's central corridor of Austin, where values slipped 2.9% in 1991 to $112.7 billion.
"Austin seems to have bottomed out now." Mr. Levine said yesterday. "Dallas County seems to be the one that's hit the hardest and longest. I think it's just that the economy has been wallowing."
Moody's said that property values varied even within Dallas County. For instance, triple-a rated Dallas saw values fall another 5.8%, or $2.5 billion, from last year. The Dallas Independent School District, the only metropolitan school with a triple-A rating, saw a similar drop, marking the fifth consecutive year of decline for its tax base.
The decline means a higher tax rate for the city. Mr. Evans said the proposed fiscal 1993 budget will likely include nearly a nickel increase in the tax levy, pushing it to 67.44 cents per 100 of assessed valuation. At the same time, the city's operating budget will decline nearly $2 million to $980 million next year.
While most taxing districts experienced some decreases, Moody's said some suburban pockets prospered. For instance, Coppell saw values grow 7% or $65.4 million as development took off in the city, which is in a growth corridor near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Meanwhile, Rowlett's tax base grew 5.5% or $36.7 million in the last year as residential development took off in the northeast part of the county.
But whether renewed development at the edges of Dallas County bodes well for the area's largest credits is not certain.
"It's not really clear yet how much the development is going to reverse itself in the city," Mr. Levine said.