Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Glenn Hegar

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Chapter 2
Appraisal Districts Operations

Before the Legislature created appraisal districts in 1981, thousands of governmental taxing entities appraised property and imposed taxes independently, resulting in wide disparities in value. As property tax levies increased and the state began to base more aid to school districts on property values, centralized local appraisal became necessary to ensure equal taxpayer treatment.

The CAD system greatly improved equity in property taxation and school funding, although there are still wide differences in individual CAD practices. Each year, PTAD surveys the state's 253 CADs for information about their operations.[19] The CADs provide historical data from the prior tax year and projected data based on budgets and plans for the current tax year. Surveys commonly do not get a 100 percent response rate and not every respondent answers every question. This year, the Dickens, Edwards, Live Oak, Motley and San Jacinto CADs did not respond to the survey.

The differences in responses reported in PTAD's annual survey reflect the diversity among CADs. While the range in survey results makes generalized observations difficult, it does demonstrate the complexity of the CADs' daily operations, the massive job they perform each year and the benefit they provide to local taxing units.

The Comptroller's office provides CAD information to legislators, taxpayers, news media, local taxing entities, state agencies and CADs. PTAD uses the information to prepare legislative fiscal estimates and as background for its methods and assistance program (MAP) reviews. CADs use the information to compare their operations with those of other CADs.

The complete survey data is available on the Comptroller's website at OperationsSurveyData.xls. Following are highlights of the information contained in the surveys.

Budget Information

Local taxing units pay CAD expenses according to their share of the total property tax levy of all the taxing units in the CAD. Each taxing unit participating in the CAD is allocated a portion of the amount of the budget equal to the proportion that the total dollar amount of property taxes imposed in the CAD by the unit for the tax year in which the budget proposal is prepared bears to the sum of the total dollar amount of property taxes imposed in the CAD by each participating unit for that year.[20]

Final 2009 CAD operating expenses totaled $379 million. The average 2009 CAD operating budget exceeded $1.5 million, 7.26 percent more than in 2008. Grouping the CADs by account sizes shows the variance in costs per account (Exhibit 11).

Exhibit 11
2009 CAD Budget Information

Number of
Number of CADs Average 2009 Budget Average Cost Per Account
Below 5,000 5 $139,140 $51.32
5,000 to 9,999 22 $164,909 $20.68
10,000 to 14,999 21 $220,443 $17.93
15,000 to 19,999 21 $278,588 $16.02
20,000 to 24,999 22 $374,652 $17.26
25,000 to 34,999 35 $560,026 $18.88
35,000 to 49,999 34 $793,467 $18.92
50,000 to 74,999 27 $937,354 $16.06
75,000 to 149,999 28 $1,563,847 $15.97
150,000 to 300,000 17 $3,853,166 $18.79
More than 300,000 12 $14,400,365 $25.27

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, 2009-10 Appraisal Districts Operations Survey.

Appraisal District Staff

Full-time CAD employees numbered 4,481 in 2009, with 811 holding supervisory positions and another 329 involved in collection activities. The CADs employed 1,772 professional appraisers, representing 39.5 percent of all full-time CAD employees (Exhibit 12). The number of full-time positions in Exhibit 12 does not match the sum of all positions listed due to employees splitting time between multiple job duties.

Exhibit 12
2009 CAD Staffing

Type of Position Number of Employees
Full time positions 4,481
Collections staff 329
Supervisory 811
Appraisers 1,772
Mappers 409
IT 340
Clerical 1,537

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts,
2009-10 Appraisal Districts Operations Survey.

Salaries for CAD appraisers in 2009 ranged from an average of $29,623 to $46,380. CAD computer programmers were paid an average ranging from $40,848 to $51,581.

Appraisers must be registered with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) and must either be a Registered Professional Appraiser (RPA) or enroll in training to become one within five years of their employment as an appraiser. CADs reported that 1,944 of their employees have certifications issued by TDLR. Statewide, 1,475 appraisers have obtained the RPA designation; 253 are Registered Texas Assessor Collectors; 126 are Registered Texas Collectors; and 90 individuals have all three designations.

In 2009, 228 CADs provided staff with medical insurance and 238 provided retirement benefits. One hundred ninety-four CADs reimburse staff for mileage expenses at an average rate of $0.507 per mile; 48 CADs do not provide mileage. Forty-two CADs provide appraisal staff with automobiles for use in their work.

Nearly all CADs, or 243, included a budget line item for staff training. Statewide training budgets totaled slightly less than $3 million, or an average of $12,067 per CAD.

Contracted Services

Most CADs contract with third-party vendors to provide appraisal services for complex properties such as mineral reserves and utilities. In 2009, 239 CADs had these contracts at a cost of slightly less than $18 million, or an average of $74,918 per CAD. Of the 18.4 million parcels appraised by CADs, 4.9 million were appraised by contracted companies (Exhibit 13).

Exhibit 13
Parcel Categories Appraised by Contactors in 2009

Category Number of CADs Contracting for this Category
Single-Family Residences 38
Multi-Family Residences 38
Vacant Lots 37
Rural Real 43
Commercial Real 53
Industrial Real 173
Oil, Gas, Minerals 217
Utilities 225
Commercial Personal 53
Industrial Personal 200
Other Personal 38
Residential Inventory 17
Special Inventory 23

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts,
2009-10 Appraisal Districts Operations Survey.

CAD staff appraised an average of 56,811 parcels, with the each appraiser being responsible for 5,992 parcels.

Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal

Most CADs, or 232, use a computer assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) system to perform appraisals. Exhibit 14 summarizes the types of CAMA systems used, as well as the costs involved.

Exhibit 14
Types of CAMA Systems Used and Cost to CADs in 2009

Type of CAMA System Costs to All CADs Average Cost per CAD
Owns CAMA System $1,548,919 $171,543
Contract for CAMA System but appraisal district staff operates software $6,204,680 $50,445
Contract for CAMA system and company maintains system off-site $1,548,919 $31,611
Unreported type of CAMA system $183,780 $26,254
Total $16,171453 $69,705

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, 2009-10 Appraisal Districts Operations Survey.

Appraisal Review Board

In 2009, CADs reported that there were 1,687 ARB members. Thirty-two ARBs made use of panels to hear protests. The CADs reporting the use of panels usually had two panels with an average of three members per panel.

ARBs met for an average of 13.2 days to hear protests. One hundred fifty-nine ARBs provided evening sessions, while 82 held protest hearings on Saturday and 31 held them on Sunday. The ARBs provided several lengths of time for hearings but the typical ARB hearing took between 16 and 30 minutes (Exhibit 15).

Exhibit 15
Time Allowed for ARB Hearings

Time Number of CADs Scheduling This Time Number of CADs Reporting This Time as Actual Length of a Hearing
5 minutes or less 2 1
6 to 15 minutes 142 97
16 to 30 minutes 66 120
31 to 45 minutes 1 20
46 to 60 minutes 0 3
More than 60 minutes 36 2
CADs not reporting 1 5

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, 2009-10 Appraisal Districts Operations Survey.

Value Protests

In 2009, property owners filed 1,332,737 protests with the ARBs. Many CADs, or 242, provide an informal process wherein the CAD and property owner try to resolve their differences before going to the ARB. CADs reported that 759,237 property owners asked to meet informally to try to resolve their concerns (Exhibit 16).

Exhibit 16
Property Owners Filing Protests in 2009

Action Taken to Protest Number of Protests Percent of Protests Filed
Owners filing a notice of protest 1,332,737 n/a
Owners who filed a notice of protest that asked for an informal meeting 759,237 56.97%
Owners resolved their concerns at an informal meeting 613,049 46.00%
Owners filed a notice of protest that attended a protest hearing 285,723 21.44%
ARB hearing resulted in a value reduction 181,566 13.62%
Owners filed a notice of protest but did not follow up with a protest hearing 313,226 23.50%

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts,
2009-10 Appraisal Districts Operations Survey.

Of the owners resolving their concerns with the CAD at an informal meeting, 570,213 received a reduction in value. Statewide, CADs granted property owners $29.6 billion in reductions at informal meetings, for an average of $51,974 per property owner protest.

CADs defended 859,057 protests before the ARB in 2009, including:

  • 356,077 over market value protests;
  • 126,936 unequal value;
  • 274,878 both over market value and unequal value;
  • 17,280 exemptions denied, modified or canceled; and
  • 83,886 other.

Of the property owners who presented a protest to the ARB in 2009, 181,566 received a reduction in value. The average reduction received was $133,481 and the total reduction granted by the ARB was $24.2 billion.

When considering the reductions during informal meetings or at ARB hearings, there are some important points to remember. These numbers include all types of property, from small residential houses to large industrial or commercial complexes. Both the average and total value reductions may be skewed by the large values of some properties, which may reduce the usefulness for any specific user of the data.

In a separate survey, PTAD obtained information to update names and addresses of CAD directors, ARB members and chief appraisers. This information is contained in the 2009 Appraisal District Directory, available online at www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/apprdir09/.

In conclusion, 35 additional taxing units were reported in 2009 versus 2008, 30 of them being special districts. Local taxing units levied over $1 billion more in property taxes in 2009 than in 2008, an increase of 2.7 percent.

In the past, this report has been a more detailed, combined annual report and operations report. The scope has been reduced for 2009 to conserve resources and allow for easier electronic access and distribution. The raw data for this report is available in downloadable electronic spreadsheets via the links provided throughout this report.

For additional information, please contact the Property Tax Assistance Division through its website at www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/ or by calling (800) 252-9121, ext. 2, or locally at (512) 305-9999, ext. 2.

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