Saturday, December 17, 2016

The unelected bureaucracy that controls Property Tax "appraisals" in Texas....

"If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them."
Ecclesiastes 5:8

Watchdog discusses the Great "Appraisal Districts" Swindle:
By state law, county appraisal districts (CADs) are tasked to do one thing: set the property values that raise revenue for local taxing agencies.

Headed by boards of directors, CADs are bureaucratically opaque, institutionally autonomous and fundamentally incestuous bodies with no effective public oversight.

County boards are composed of the elected local tax assessor-collector and a set of directors named by the very local government agencies that depend on tax proceeds from property appraisals.


Seeking to democratize the captive CADs, Bettencourt, R-Houston, proposes mandating that all directors be elected officials within their respective counties.

“This makes them directly answerable to the citizens,” Bettencourt said of provisions in SB 2. “If people don’t like the results, they can vote them out of office.”


As currently constituted, CADs have the appearance of doing the bidding of the taxing units that nominate the CAD directors. That perception is fueled by a rising number of property tax protests filed and rejected each year.


But CADs’ sharply rising property valuations stoke suspicions that appraisal districts are the wholly owned tools of rapacious public bureaucracies. Skyrocketing appraisals that defy market realities have triggered a rising tide of lawsuits against CADs, especially from commercial property owners.
Seriously, do read the whole thing here.


We didn't realize Senator Bettencourt had included making 'appraisal boards' an elected body in his proposed reforms for next session, but doing so is one of the biggest steps you could take to handcuff property tax collections; kudos.


Fun fact: The Center for Public Policy Priorities is a generally irrelevant left wing think tank here in Austin.  That being said, they do employ a 'fiscal policy analyst' named Dick Lavine...who also happens to be the Chairman of the Board of the Travis Central Appraisal District.  This isn't a knock on Dick Lavine, who happens to be a really nice guy, but we've always found that to be one of the most revealing conflicts of interest vignettes about how the property tax system actually works.

1 comment:

  1. Even better, eliminate the board of directors and make the chief appraiser a directly elected position.


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