Findings of the Appraisal Standards Review
This chapter of the report addresses findings, commendations and recommendations from the appraisal standards review of the San Jacinto CAD in two sections:
During the course of the review process, the review team identified certain management and operational issues that may not be directly related to the appraisal process, but can have an indirect impact on the CAD's ability to carry out its mission accurately and consistently. The Comptroller will not recommend to a judge that he appoint a board to implement these recommendations, but they are provided here for the CAD's consideration as additional ways to enhance its operational effectiveness and efficiency and comply with areas of the law that do not involve appraisal issues.
Governance and Management
The quality of the property tax system depends largely on an appraisal district's board of directors (board). The board should provide knowledge, judgment and expertise in establishing policies and procedures for the district's organization and operation.
The San Jacinto CAD's board of directors consists of six members (Exhibit 7).
San Jacinto CAD
Board of Directors Members
|Board Member||Entity Member Represents||Start Date||Occupation||Elected Official|
|Fielding Browder, Chairman||Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD||1996||Rancher||No|
|Johnny A. Smith||Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD||1994||HFD Fireman||No|
|Susan Bailes||Shepherd ISD||2006||County Extension Office||Yes|
|David Henry||Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD||2004||Farm Bureau||No|
|Fritz Faulkner||San Jacinto County||2006||County Judge||Yes*|
|Barbara Shelly||San Jacinto County||2002||County Tax Assessor-Collector||Yes *Non-Voting|
Source: San Jacinto CAD, January 2006. *Elected in San Jacinto County elections to occupational positions.
The board has the following primary responsibilities established by Tax Code:
- establish the appraisal district's appraisal office, Section 6.05;
- adopt the appraisal district's annual operating budget, Section 6.06;
- approve appraisal contracts, Section 6.05 and 25.01(b);
- hire a chief appraiser, Section 6.05;
- hire a taxpayer liaison officer (in counties with a population of more than 125,000), Section 6.052;
- appoint appraisal review board members, Section 6.41;
- contract for annual financial audit, Section 6.063;
- set general policy on the appraisal district's operation, Section 6,05(h); and
- designate the district depository, Section 6.09.
The Comptroller's office asked the board to complete a written survey about its activities. Two of the six board members responded. The survey is broken down into board policies and procedures; chief appraiser and staff; property appraisals; appraisal review boards; and budgeting and financial management. The two board members who responded gave San Jacinto CAD good marks.
The chairman of the board chose to respond only to the board policies and procedures section of the survey. He also commented that he thought the board of directors and the San Jacinto CAD staff are doing a good job. Another board member agreed with the chairman's assessment. The chairman and board member both indicated the software system used in 2004 was a faulty system and would not produce reports that were useful to San Jacinto CAD.
San Jacinto CAD's budget lacks the elements necessary to comply with Tax Code Section 6.06(a).
The Texas Tax Code Section 6.06(a), requires an appraisal district to list in its budget each proposed position, including the salary and benefits for the position, and each proposed capital expenditure.
PTD examined copies of the CAD's budgets for 2004, 2005 and 2006. The three budgets do not contain a listing of each proposed position showing the salary and benefits included for each position. Each budget lists categories of capital expenditures, such as office furniture and equipment, but the budgets do not list the detail of each proposed purchase in each category.
The budget for 2004 includes $25,000 for an agriculture and timber contract. San Jacinto CAD contracted with an independent appraisal firm to inspect the county's agricultural and timber areas to verify use. This was a one-time contract and was not included in the budget for subsequent years.
A summary of the budget is shown in Exhibit 8.
San Jacinto CAD Adopted Budgets
2004 through 2006
|2004 Budget||Percent||2005 Budget||Percent||2006 Budget||Percent||Percentage Increase (Decrease) 2004-2006|
|Insurance & Bonds||5,500||0.89%||5,500||0.83%||5,500||79.00%||0.00%|
|Publications & Notices||1,000||0.16%||1,000||0.15%||1,000||0.15%||0.00%|
|State Registration Fee||1,500||0.24%||1,500||0.23%||1,500||0.22%||0.00%|
|Workshops, Seminars, Etc.||5,500||0.89%||7,000||1.10%||7,000||1.00%||21.00%|
|Appraisal Review Board||3,000||0.49%||4,000||0.60%||4,000||0.58%||25.00%|
|Outside Appraisal Service||$16,200||02.6%||$18,000||2.70%||$18,300||2.60%||11.50%|
|Computer Software & Maintenance||*30,000||4.90%||*30,000||4.50%||17,000||2.50%||(43.30%)|
|Mapping, Hardware Software||4,800||0.78%||5,000||0.75%||4,700||0.68%||(0.02%)|
|Contract Timber & AG||25,000||4.10%||0||0.00%||0||0.00%|
|Office Equip. & Furniture||2,000||0.32%||2,000||0.31%||2,000||0.29%||0.00%|
|Computer Systems Upgrading||10,000||1.60%||10,000||1.50%||8,000||1.20%||(25.00%)|
|Total Capital Outlay||12,000||1.90%||12,000||1.80%||10,000||1.40%||(16.70%)|
|Encumbered Funds CD||$9,928||0.00%||$10,040||0.00%||$10,246||0.00%||0.03%|
|Encumbered Funds Special Acct.||0||0.00%||$41,788||0.00%||$42,375||0.00%||100.00%|
|Grand Total Budget||$626,928||**$751,593||$745,921||15.90%|
|Budget amount billable to Taxing Entities||$617,000||0.00%||$665,000||0.00%||$693,300||0.00%||11%|
Source: San Jacinto CAD fiscal year budgets 2004, 2005 and 2006.
*The budgets show more money spent in the 2004 and 2005 budgets for computer software and maintenance due to the purchase of new hardware and software.
**The discrepancy in the 2005 budget was due to non payment of a software vendor in 2004 because of software problems that were eventually corrected with a new vendor.
The budgets summarized in Exhibit 8 do not give sufficient information for a member of a taxing unit or a member of the public to understand how appraisal district funds are spent. Specifically, capital expenditures are not listed. Also, since positions and benefits are not listed separately, one cannot determine which positions are receiving which salary or what benefits are associated with that salary. With more than two-thirds of the budget going toward wages and benefits, both taxing units and the public need the details required by state law to be assured that the number of staff in the appraisal district is sufficient to perform the work and that the staff is correctly compensated.
One of the concerns of the former chief appraiser was the difficulty in attracting personnel to work for San Jacinto CAD. Providing budget details as required by the Tax Code Section 6.06(a) allows potential San Jacinto CAD employees to compare salaries and benefits for specific positions with surrounding appraisal districts and competing employers.
San Jacinto CAD has complied with the Tax Code Section 6.062, and provided proper notice of budget hearings in a timely manner. The CAD budget also allocates amounts to each taxing entity.
Jefferson CAD's budget documents, for example, comply with Tax Code Section 6.06. The budgets list all capital expenditures, such as software, computer equipment, and furniture, and the proposed purchases in each category. The budgets also list all Jefferson CAD staff salaries and the benefits for each position. Jefferson CAD's budget provides enough details to allow members of the taxing units and the public to understand how the money requested for each proposed budget is spent.
Expand the budget to include the benefits for each position and list all capital expenditures and proposed purchases as required by the Tax Code Section 6.06(a).
San Jacinto CAD has had three chief or interim chief appraisers in the last five years, which has been a major contributor to the poor performance of the CAD.
In January 2006, the chief appraiser of three years resigned.
The board advertised in newspapers and on the IAAO and TAAO Web sites for a chief appraiser. The current interim chief appraiser applied for, interviewed and was appointed interim chief appraiser.
The CAD has a performance review document that was developed in 2005. The document is based on a point scoring system and asks about three strongest areas and three areas of concern for the chief appraiser. The evaluation instrument evaluates 14 areas: attitude, flexibility and adaptability, positive leadership, time management, completing assignments, organizational skills, public relations, appraisal knowledge, working relationship with the board, communication, work planning, delegation, personnel practices and overall performance. Each area of the performance review is rated from Very Good to Unsatisfactory; ranging from a plus 5 points to a negative 5 points. This rating system means that the chief appraiser's potential score runs from 70 to -70. PTD assumes that a negative number will likely result in termination.
There also is no area for the board to provide feedback concerning the chief appraiser's performance. Without feedback, the chief appraiser cannot know the basis of the rating or the board's true concerns. The evaluation instrument also does not give a timeline for the board to re-evaluate the chief appraiser. According to the former chief appraiser, she was evaluated orally by the board on an annual basis, but not in writing.
The board's Statement of Policies document has a one-page list of written qualifications and duties for the chief appraiser. There is also a detailed written job description for the chief appraiser that spells out the position's supervisory responsibilities, competencies and essential duties. The job description expands on the evaluation instrument and the board's qualifications and duties list. However, neither the job description nor the evaluation instrument provides specific procedures or a timeline for evaluating the chief appraiser.
A qualified chief appraiser is essential to effective appraisal district operations. Chief appraisers are responsible for hiring competent staff, that procedures are documented, appraisals are performed, employees are evaluated and complete all other duties required of an appraisal district. An evaluation process that objectively assesses performance will allow the board to clarify its expectations for the chief appraiser and ensure strong and consistent leadership for the appraisal district. Through its policies and procedures, the board determines the appraisal district's goals and operates as the decision-making body on appraisal district operations.
Without a policy requiring a regular, written and comprehensive evaluation of the chief appraiser, the board cannot properly inform the chief appraiser if board policies are being followed. Unpredictability in CAD leadership can negatively impact the appraisal process, work load and staff morale.
Instability in the chief appraiser position may have contributed to the high turnover among CAD employees, which in turn has contributed to other appraisal-related problems according to PTD interviews.
A good evaluation instrument is written and allows for feedback and input from members of the board, gives the chief appraiser an opportunity to address his or her own goals and objectives during the evaluation and is used according to a specific timeline.
In Nueces CAD, for example, the chief appraiser receives an annual performance evaluation on the anniversary date of his or her hire. The evaluation instrument for the chief appraiser is distinct from the evaluation tool used for other district staff. The instrument allows for input from all board members and affords the chief appraiser an opportunity to address his/her own goals and objectives during the evaluation period. In addition, the evaluation sets up measurable goals and objectives for the next 12 months. By evaluating the chief appraiser in writing, Nueces CAD ensures the chief appraiser and the board have the same goals.
Develop a written procedure and policy for hiring a new chief appraiser, develop a written evaluation tool and evaluate the chief appraiser, in writing, according to a specific timeline.
Resources and Management
In organizing and administering a county appraisal district, the chief appraiser is responsible for hiring, firing and training personnel; for ensuring compliance with a wide range of legal requirements; and for maintaining policies and procedures for the effective operation of the appraisal district.
The San Jacinto CAD staff is profiled in Exhibit 9.
District employees who conduct appraisals must be registered professional appraisers (RPA) or be working towards certification as an RPA; the latter must be certified within five years of their hire date. Interim certifications include Class II and Class III. In addition, RPAs must recertify every five years to remain registered. All San Jacinto CAD appraisers are properly registered.
The San Jacinto CAD has no plan for filling vacant positions or strategy for maintaining CAD staff.
One of the CAD's main areas of concern is the staffing level. The former chief appraiser remarked that the CAD has been experiencing difficulty in attracting personnel, and personnel turnover has prevented the CAD from maintaining seasoned staff.
Seven out of 13 staff members have fewer than three years of experience with the CAD, and there are currently four vacant positions, including the chief appraiser position. Only the file clerk and the exemption coordinator have more than five years of service with the San Jacinto CAD. The vacancies are due to salary level, staff turnover and the proximity of larger, better-paid appraisal districts. Currently, CAD staff are performing additional job functions because of the four unfilled positions.
The San Jacinto CAD has had trouble attracting and maintaining qualified staff. For instance, the map technician was recruited to another district. Having lower salaries and being close to larger, better-paid appraisal districts is a disadvantage for attracting and maintaining qualified individuals for the CAD. Turnover may also be tied to employees having to perform duties outside of the employees' job descriptions.
San Jacinto CAD Positions, Certifications, Years with San Jacinto CAD and Salaries
|Position||BTPE Certification(s)||Years with||Salary|
|Chief Appraiser*||RPA, RTA, CTA||5 years||$47,000|
|Assistant Chief Appraiser||Class III||3 years||$34,000|
|Admin. Asst./Deed Technician||2 years||$23,000|
|Exemption Coordinator||17 years||$22,000|
|Sr. Appraiser/Data Systems Admin.||Class III||3 years||$26,000|
|File Clerk||8 years||$19,000|
|Appraiser||Class II||1 year||$24,000|
|Asst. Deed Technician||4 months||$21,000|
|Appraiser||Class II||2 years||$24,000|
|Appraiser||Class II||1 year||$24,000|
|Systems Administrator/Data Entry||Vacant||$22,000|
Source: San Jacinto CAD, January 2006. *The chief appraiser resigned on January 31, 2006. The assistant chief appraiser is now the interim chief appraiser and has taken over the chief appraiser duties.
Exhibit 10 shows the salaries for San Jacinto CAD and surrounding appraisal districts.
Minimum and Maximum Appraiser Salaries for San Jacinto CAD and the Surrounding Districts
|Appraisal District||Total Number of Parcels||Appraiser Salary Low||Appraiser Salary High|
Source: Comptroller 2004-2005 Appraisal District Operations Survey.
The former chief appraiser contended that San Jacinto CAD performs comparative salary analyses during budget development times to ensure competitive salaries with surrounding appraisal districts. Exhibit 10 shows that the low-end salary for San Jacinto CAD is not far from the average salary for the area. San Jacinto CAD starting salaries are just below the group average. It also shows the high-end salaries are much lower than average. CAD staff can increase their salary by going to another appraisal district after gaining initial experience in San Jacinto CAD.
The retention of personnel relies on adequate compensation, annual reviews and clear job definitions. Some of these functions may be best served by outsourcing, especially the mapping technician function.
Appraisal district personnel and human resources management are a critical function of appraisal districts. To maintain a qualified staff, salaries must be comparable for the same functions in like areas. San Jacinto is a small county, but is competing with the larger counties of Harris and Montgomery for potential employees. Having insufficient staffing levels may lead to the CAD being unable to keep up CAD functions.
By creating a plan to fill vacancies and developing an effective strategy to retain current CAD employees, San Jacinto CAD may improve reappraisal functions and will be better able to accomplish the mapping functions and evaluate whether or not CAD employees are performing additional job functions due to CAD vacancies.
Kaufman CAD, for example, implemented a plan to maintain competitive salaries for its employees. Kaufman CAD contracted with a firm to develop a compensation system and to determine if the CAD's salaries were in line with relevant job markets, namely similarly sized appraisal districts and other governmental entities.
Develop a plan for filling vacancies and develop a strategy for retaining San Jacinto CAD employees.
Recruiting efforts, wages and accurate job descriptions need to be included in a plan for hiring and maintaining qualified personnel for San Jacinto CAD. Salary ranges need to be more closely analyzed to ensure San Jacinto CAD is competitive with districts in the area, including Harris and Montgomery CADs.
Job descriptions do not reflect the actual work performed.
Several employees perform functions outside of their job descriptions. These functions might be required, but are not included in the formal job description. For example, the administrative assistant is performing the duties of both the administrative assistant and deed technician. Both positions are listed in one box on the organization chart, but there are two separate job descriptions. The administrative assistant also has the extra responsibility of taking minutes at board meetings and other meetings that are not listed on her job description. Other examples include an appraiser who also acts as the data systems administrator and data entry clerk, and the assistant chief appraiser, now the interim chief appraiser, who also performs many of the data systems administrator functions. The appraisers' jobs also include providing support for the front desk, customer service and mapping.
Vacancies at the CAD contribute to the additional job duties. The absence of a map technician is hindering the completion of the geographic information system (GIS). With the chief appraiser position vacant, the interim chief appraiser also fulfills that duty as well as his previous duties.
Without comprehensive job descriptions of actual duties, San Jacinto CAD management may not be able to accurately evaluate and compensate district personnel performance, exacerbating the inability to maintain sufficient personnel levels in the CAD.
Comprehensive job descriptions identify all job duties. If job descriptions reflect the actual work done by staff it helps staff members know their exact job expectations, and the chief appraiser has a management tool to evaluate staff performance in order to establish accurate compensation and decrease staff turnover.
An issue presented in the IAAO textbook, Chapter 16, Elements of Administration, is the need for employee development. In light of the high turnover in San Jacinto CAD, the need for effective management to help employees grow is essential. New employees will be productive only if adequately trained for a position. The job description should define the job for both employee and supervisor. A training program builds the required skills and monitors progress. Without development of job descriptions, management is unable to plan effectively for workload distribution.
Henderson CAD, for example has well-written job descriptions. The job descriptions outline employees' responsibilities and help inform employees of the evaluation criteria.
Revise the San Jacinto CAD job descriptions to reflect the actual work being performed.
Information Processing and Data Collection
Computers have become a necessity for all appraisal districts. The use of computers allows the district to amass large amounts of data; perform complex tasks that otherwise would take hundreds of staff hours to perform manually; and more accurately analyze trend data to ensure accurate valuation of similar properties.
Technology infrastructure is the underlying system of cabling, phone lines, hubs, switches, routers and other devices that connect the various parts of an organization through a wide area network (WAN) and through a series of local area networks (LANs). Maintaining a strong infrastructure and integrating the various systems used by the appraisal district is critical to increased staff productivity, fewer costly data errors and better customer service to the users, members of the community and the taxing units dependent on the appraisal district for critical information.
Technology is a critical part of managing large amounts of data effectively, and appraisal districts use appraisal systems and mapping or geographic information systems to improve appraisal accuracy and uniformity.
San Jacinto CAD identified problems with its newly installed tax appraisal system and quickly implemented a plan to research and verify a replacement system.
The new 2005 system, True Automation, allowed San Jacinto CAD to provide timely sales reports, in a Windows environment, with confidence in the data being reported.
In December 2003, a new tax appraisal system was installed to provide required reports and functionality and to operate in a Windows system. A requirement of the new tax system is that it be compatible with the county tax assessor-collector's office system.
San Jacinto CAD could not produce accurate appraisal rolls from its system in 2004. The appraisal rolls had to be completed manually from vendor-generated reports, using the available data in the system. Also during 2004, it was discovered that the newly installed system could not consistently maintain accurate data.
Since the 2004 system did not perform as sold, the San Jacinto CAD declined to pay the vendor for the software. The software budget money was reallocated to the 2005 budget for the True Automation system. The hardware purchased for the 2004 system was compatible with the True Automation system; therefore, no new hardware was required.
The faulty system was replaced with a more reliable system in order to produce accurate appraisal rolls in a timely manner.
Exhibit 11 lists some major problems and flaws associated with the 2004 Tax Appraisal Management system at San Jacinto CAD.
System Software Problems
2004 Tax Year
|Appraisal Management System Software Problems|
|The system accepted data sometimes and "appeared" to accept data other times. Manual verification was required to assure data was really added to the database.|
|The San Jacinto County tax assessor identified incorrect data when it applied the appraisal roll to its system.|
|Due to system bugs, the district staff could not create many of the required production reports. The district staff requested these reports from the systems vendor staff and the vendor created them.|
|San Jacinto CAD personnel could not produce the "Property Tax Division Property Value Study" self-reports for 2004. These reports were completed manually.|
|The CAD could not produce ratio studies for the 2004 appraisal year.|
|The CAD had to manually calculate 78 timber values.|
|No Deleted Property Tax report was created.|
|There were numerous problems with the required PVS reports.|
|The sales comparison function did not work.|
|There were no standard checks for problem accounts.|
San Jacinto CAD could not run year-rollover functions. The results were:
The software vendor converted a four-month-old data file instead of current data file.
When the district staff discovered the error, the vendor did not have sufficient time to convert the current records.
|The district could not run a systems parallel to verify the results of the old production system with the results of the new 2004 system.|
Source: San Jacinto CAD February 2006.
There was no assurance, outside of manual comparisons, that the data reported from the 2004 system was valid. The CAD missed some deadlines and distributed some inaccurate data to the San Jacinto County tax department, the state and the taxpayers.
The acceptance of any new system requires research, planning and verification of the new system before it is placed into production. San Jacinto CAD did its research, planning, and verification when selecting True Automation.
San Jacinto CAD successfully developed a plan to research and replace a faulty tax appraisal system with a newer system that produces complete and accurate appraisal roll information.
In addition to the recommendations directly linked to the appraisal process, the report makes the following management-related recommendations for the CAD's consideration. Several of these recommendations include compliance with existing laws. As Texas governmental entities, appraisal districts are required to comply with all applicable existing laws.
San Jacinto CAD does not have a disaster recovery plan.
The only disaster recovery component currently in place is tape backup. The San Jacinto CAD performs a backup of data to tapes daily. The systems administrator creates backup tapes and maintains them on-site for five days. The administrator then sends the tapes to a local bank to keep in a vault, which is purged once a week. This storage requires that the bank be open if the CAD needs to obtain the tapes in a disaster.
The CAD does not have an alternate site from which to operate and where it can store backup tapes and other essential data.
In preparation for Hurricane Rita in September of 2005, the San Jacinto CAD sent a backup tape of their old 2004 computer system data to the vendor, in case the San Jacinto CAD became inoperable. The hurricane knocked down trees and power lines, but did not do any further damage. The district was closed until the power was turned back on almost two weeks later.
San Jacinto CAD has not tested the backup tape system to ensure that it can restore the production data. Restoration from system backup tapes requires both testing and accessibility. In the event of a disaster in Coldspring, Texas, the backup tapes stored in a local bank may not be readily accessible if the bank is closed or severely damaged. Production backup is a critical part of a disaster recovery plan.
Without a well-thought-out, written disaster recovery plan there is no assurance that the San Jacinto CAD can continue required business on a timely basis. Business operations rely on normal conditions with key people available. A disaster recovery plan identifies the assets, always-accessible backup sites, data and personnel needed to continue business in less-than-normal conditions. The plan should also include business interruptions as well as a severe natural disaster.
Since San Jacinto CAD has no disaster recovery plan, even a small event could prevent business operations. With the loss of a key individual, loss of electricity for a couple of days or any number of out-of-the-ordinary events, it is possible that the San Jacinto CAD could not meet its deadlines and continue doing business.
Exhibit 12 lists some of the key elements of an effective disaster recovery plan.
Key Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan
|Build a disaster recovery team||Identify a disaster recovery team that includes key policy makers, building management, end-users, key outside contractors and technical staff.|
|Obtain and/or approximate key information||
Develop an exhaustive list of critical activities performed within the district.
Develop an estimate of the minimum space and equipment necessary for restoring essential operations.
Develop a timeframe for starting initial operations after a disaster.
Develop a list of key personnel and their responsibilities.
|Perform and/or delegate key duties||
Develop an inventory of all computer technology assets, including data, software, hardware, documentation and supplies.
Set up reciprocal agreements with comparable organizations to share each other's equipment or lease backup equipment to allow the district to operate critical functions in the event of a disaster.
Make plans to procure hardware, software and other equipment as necessary to ensure the district can resume critical operations as soon as possible.
Establish procedures for obtaining off-site backup records.
Locate support resources the district needs, such as equipment repair, trucking and cleaning companies.
Arrange with vendor to provide priority delivery for emergency orders.
Identify data recovery specialists and establish emergency agreements.
|Specify details within the plan||
Identify individual roles and responsibilities by name and job title, so everyone knows exactly what to do.
Define actions to be taken in advance of an occurrence or undesirable event.
Define necessary actions at the onset of an undesirable event to limit damage, loss and compromised data integrity.
Identify actions to be taken to re-establish normal operations.
|Test the plan||
Test the entire plan frequently and completely.
Analyze the results to improve the plan and identify further needs.
|Deal with damage appropriately||
If a disaster actually occurs, document all costs and videotape the damage.
Be prepared to overcome downtime on your own; insurance settlements can take time to resolve.
|Give consideration to other significant issues||
Don't make a plan unnecessarily complicated.
Make one individual responsible for maintaining the plan, but have it structured so others are authorized and prepared to implement if it is needed.
Update the plan regularly and whenever system changes occur.
Source: Adopted from the National Center for Statistics, "Safeguarding Your Technology."
Prudent appraisal districts and other governmental entities have a plan to recover data and continue operations with minimal interruptions in disaster situations. Key items in the plan include instructions for alternate office locations, communications, recreating appraisal and mapping systems and storage of vital data.
Create and test a disaster recovery plan.
San Jacinto CAD lacks a comprehensive policy and procedures operations manual.
Even though the CAD developed an operations procedures manual in 2005, it lacks procedures for the completion of daily administrative duties. According to the former chief appraiser, historically the CAD dealt with problems as they arose and the district had no operations policy and procedures manual in 2004.
In reviewing the 2005 procedures manual, the manual does have information to help CAD appraisers understand the process while appraising in the field. The manual provides examples of the mobile home appraisal process; procedures for processing mail; and payroll policies that outline the basic steps for processing payroll.
Each employee must turn in a time sheet every other Wednesday to the administrative assistant. The assistant then retrieves blank checks and proceeds to the payroll section of QuickBooks, creates payroll checks and prints them.
The manual is intended to work in conjunction with field and office training; however, the operations manual does not address some basic activities, such as purchasing, budgets, bank reconciliation and accounts. Most of the staff have been with the CAD less than three years and relied on the chief appraiser for direction.
The former chief appraiser managed the day-to-day operations, telling the staff what to do, such as managing contracts and the budget. By adopting and implementing a comprehensive policy and procedures manual, the CAD helps ensure that it continues operating at a consistent level in instances of personnel vacancies.
A policy tells a person, department or group of individuals what they must do, whereas procedures specify how day-to-day functions are accomplished.
Well-written, organized and up-to-date procedures:
- implement and assure compliance with board policies as well as documenting the intent of those policies;
- protect the institutional knowledge of an organization, so that as experienced employees leave, new employees have the benefit of the others' years of experience;
- provide the basis for training new employees; and
- offer a tool for evaluating employees based on their adherence to policies and procedures.
Jefferson CAD, for example, has developed and uses written policy and procedures manuals that assist in the day-to-day operations of the appraisal district. The Jefferson CAD has a set of policies and procedures for the board of directors and another set for the everyday operations of the CAD. The CAD also has a system in place to update the procedures each year.
Develop, adopt and implement a comprehensive written policy and procedures manual for appraisal district operations.
The San Jacinto CAD has written procedures for granting and denying exemptions; however the former chief appraiser did not publicize the availability of application forms for exemptions as required by Tax Code Section 11.44(b).
San Jacinto CAD does have a document titled "Policies for Granting or Denying Exemptions" in an incomplete manual titled San Jacinto County Appraisal District Procedure Manual. The document consists of copies of the statues relating to most, but not all, exemptions. There are no locally developed policies or procedures.
A section in the San Jacinto County Appraisal District Procedure Manual also lists exemptions and their qualifications. The manual assigns the exemptions coordinator as the staff-member responsible for administering exceptions. The section does not stipulate what steps need to be followed or the legal criteria used to grant or deny exemptions.
Comprehensive procedures on exemptions are not only important to the taxpayer, but also to the appraisal district staff. Written statutory standards require that the chief appraiser keeps taxpayers informed of all their rights regarding exemptions and helps provide that exemptions are granted or denied in a uniform manner.
Kaufman CAD, for example, has a manual titled The Homestead Exemption Procedures Manual. It describes statutory requirements and documents locally developed policies necessary to process exemptions.
Develop and implement CAD policies and procedures for granting, verifying or denying exemptions and notify taxpayers how and when to apply for exemptions.
San Jacinto CAD does not have a records storage procedure that implements the Proposed Records Management Resolution previously filed by the CAD with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).
Currently, new records are stored in the attic at the district office and the old records are stored at a school in Coldspring. An old record versus a new record is not defined by the CAD. It is unclear at what point a new record becomes an old record and moves from one location to another. The CAD has no written procedure for storing, retrieving or destroying records from these areas, and the locations are not climate-controlled.
Records stored at these locations include financial reports, approvals, notices and basically all records from the district since the 1980s. The CAD does not have a retention policy, though the interim chief appraiser stated the CAD is reviewing records, performing an inventory and organizing records starting in 2006. The interim chief appraiser handles all requests for review of records.
Local Government Code 203.041(a) requires local governments to develop a records retention schedule that lists all the records they maintain and file the schedule with TSLAC. Tax Code Section 6.13 states that appraisal districts shall comply with the Local Government Code. The schedule identifies whether the records are confidential or open and whether they have long-term (archival) value. It also specifies the medium in which the records are kept; identifies essential records; and prescribes the time period over which each type of record will be maintained. In preparing this schedule, the agency must ensure that it keeps all records for the minimum time periods prescribed by state law.
The state's records management document states that the Local Records Management Division provides training and consulting services to state and local governments without charge.
Local Government Code Section 203.041 (a) requires each local government to develop a records control schedule and file the schedule with the Texas State Library. Tax Code Section 6.13 states that appraisal districts shall comply with the requirements of the Local Government Code.
As a result of not implementing a records storage procedure, old records must be retained permanently and are subject to open records requests.
Matagorda CAD, for example, has written procedures for document storage, retention and destruction. Matagorda CAD also has a records control schedule on file with the Texas State Library. The schedule identifies various appraisal district records and their retention periods. The CAD also developed procedures for storing, retaining and destroying documents.
Implement the records management resolution with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.