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Excerpts from legislation to elect appraisal districts

State Rep. Dade Phelan, District 21, would like to see the board of directors in appraisal districts in Texas elected rather than appointed by different governmental entities — city, county, school districts, and special districts.

In fact, Phelan will introduce legislation do so when he returns to the Legislature when they convene in January 2017.

His bill is titled HB 495. Some of the main points of the text include the following:

One director is elected from each of the four commissioners precincts of the county for which the appraisal district is established. The county assessor-collector is a

director by virtue of the person ’s office. The directors other than the county assessor-collector are elected at the general election for state and county officers and serve two-year terms beginning on January 1 of odd-numbered years.

If the county assessor-collector is ineligible to serve, the appraisal district is governed by the four directors elected from the commissioners precincts and a director elected from the county at large. The director elected from the county at

large is elected at the same election and serves the same term of office as the four directors elected from the commissioners precincts.

A vacancy in the position held by the county assessor-collector is filled for the remainder of the unexpired term by appointment by the commissioners court of the county for which the appraisal district is established.

An individual is not eligible to be a candidate for, to be appointed to, or to serve on the board of directors of an appraisal district if the individual or a business entity in which the individual has a substantial interest is a party to a contract

with:

(1) the appraisal district; or

(2) a taxing unit that participates in the appraisal district, if the contract relates to the performance of an activity governed by this title.

Each year the chief appraiser shall prepare a proposed budget for the operations of the district for the following tax year and shall submit copies to each taxing unit participating in the district and to the district board of directors before June 15.

The board of directors shall hold a public hearing to consider the budget.

The taxing units participating in an appraisal district may adopt a different method of allocating the costs of operating the district if the governing bodies of three-fourths of the group of taxing units composed of the municipalities, school districts,

junior college districts, and county participating in the appraisal district.

A change in allocation of district costs made as provided by this section remains in effect until changed in a manner provided by this section or rescinded by resolution of a majority of the governing bodies of the group of taxing units composed of the

municipalities, school districts, junior college districts, and county participating in the appraisal district.

District offices of the state government shall be listed in the following order:

 

 

(1) member, State Board of Education;

 

(2) state senator;

 

(3) state representative;

 

(4) chief justice, court of appeals;

 

(5) justice, court of appeals;

 

(6) district judge;

 

(7) criminal district judge;

 

(8) family district judge;

 

(9) district attorney;

 

(10) criminal district attorney;

 

(11) appraisal district director.

 

The office of appraisal district director: A county with a population of under 200,000 beginning with the primary and general elections conducted in 2018. Members then elected take office January 1, 2019.

This Act takes effect January 1, 2019.

Wayne Peveto, former state representative from Orange, knows something about appraisal districts.

It was through his legislation that appraisal districts were established in Texas in 1979.

He believes Phelan’s bill would be turning the state backwards to 35 years ago.

“He wasn’t around to see the shape the rights of the taxpayers were in or the shape the appraisal districts were in,” Peveto said. “We need to be uniform across Texas. Back then, there was no way of knowing the property of a school district.”

He said prior to 1979, the county tax assessor-collectors never reappraised or kept up with the values. Some of the school districts were up to date and other values were 50 to 60 years old.

“It’s about the youth not knowing that experience. He doesn’t remember because he wasn’t there. I don’t think his bill will go anywhere,” Peveto said.

In the Aug. 5, 2002 edition of the House Research Organization Focus Report, it was cited:

“Writing in the August 1995 issue of Fiscal Notes, published by the Comptroller’s Office, former state Rep. Wayne Peveto of Orange recounted the problem that lawmakers faced: Some districts had not reappraised their property since their inception; others had reappraised more recently, and thus appeared richer than they actually were when compared with districts that had not reappraised. There was no uniformity in how appraisals were carried out nor in the appraisers’ qualifications. There was not even uniformity as to what types of property were placed on the tax roll[s]. Some school districts taxed chickens; others taxed cars; others taxed only real property.…The property tax was the largest single tax in Texas…yet it was not imposed uniformly on taxpayers.”

In 1979, lawmakers enacted the landmark “Peveto bill,” which revised the Tax Code extensively, according to the Focus Report.

Among its major provisions were:

  • establishing single central appraisal districts (CADs) for all counties;
  • eliminating fractional tax assessments and requiring appraisal at full market value; • requiring regular appraisals and reappraisals at least once every three years;
  • replacing taxing entities’ equalization boards with county-wide appraisal review boards (ARBs) to rule on taxpayer protests for all entities in each CAD;
  • allowing referenda to limit tax increases (rollback elections);
  • requiring taxing entities to publicize proposed tax rates, hold public hearings, and publish other information showing how tax rates affect tax levies (truth in taxation); • mandating professional standards for assessors and appraisers; and
  • instituting state supervision of local tax offices.

David Ball: 409-721-2427