Overview of County Appraisal District
County History and Demographics
According to the Handbook of Texas, Starr County was organized in 1848 and named for James Harper Starr. Starr County is in South Texas, bordered by Hidalgo County to the east, Brooks County to the northeast, Jim Hogg County to the north, and Zapata County to the west. The Rio Grande River serves as its boundary with Mexico to the south. The county seat is Rio Grande City, which is on U.S. Highway 83 and the Border Pacific Railroad. Starr County is part of the Rio Grande Plain region and comprises 1,226 square miles with elevations from 200 to 400 feet above sea level.
The northeastern part of the county has sandy or light-colored and loamy soils over very deep, reddish or mottled clayey subsoils. Soils in the central part of the county are light-colored, deep to moderately deep, and well drained. In the southwest soils are gray to black cracking clay. Limestone can be found within forty inches of the surface. Along the river, brown to red loams cover cracking clayey soils. Starr County is in the South Texas Plains vegetation region, characterized by mid and short grasses, thorny shrubs, mesquite, cacti, and live and post oak. The primary crops are sorghum and hay. Vegetables are also grown. The primary fruit is oranges, and the primary livestock is cattle. Natural resources include caliche, clay, gravel, oil and gas. Gas and oil production is significant. Starr County has a subtropical, sub humid climate with mild winters and hot summers.
The population of the county for 2003, according to the County Information Project, was 57,678 residents. The median per capita income is $7,069 and 50.9 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty level.
The county has three school districts: Rio Grande City Independent School District (ISD), San Isidro ISD and Roma ISD.
Appraisal District Organization and Staffing
The appraisal district was formed in 1981 and became active in 1982. Starr CAD has a total of 15 full-time staff with four supervisory positions. The district contracts with Prichard & Abbott, Inc. (P&A) for professional appraisal services on mineral, utility and industrial appraisals.
Exhibit 1 outlines the district's organization.
Scope of Office
The Board of Directors has no authority to set values or appraisal methods. The chief appraiser carries out the appraisal district's legal duties, hires the staff, makes the appraisals and operates the appraisal office.
The district provides appraisal services for eight taxing units: Starr County, Rio Grand City ISD, San Isidro ISD, Roma ISD, City of Roma, Starr County Memorial Hospital District, and South Texas College District and the City of Rio Grande City.
Exhibit 2 presents the types of properties appraised by Starr CAD in tax year 2003. In-house staff handles all property categories except Category G (minerals), Category J (utilities), and Category F2/L2 (industrial - real/personal), which are appraised by P&A.
Starr CAD Property by Category Summary
With Assigned Responsibility
Property Category Account Type Description Responsible For Appraisal Category A Residential In-house staff Category B Multi-Family In-house staff Category C Vacant Lots In-house staff Category D/E Farm/Ranch Land w/Impr. In-house staff Category F1 Commercial Real In-house staff Category L1 Commercial Personal In-house staff Category G Minerals Contracted Appraisal Firm Category J Utilities Contracted Appraisal Firm Category F2 Industrial Real Contracted Appraisal Firm Category L2 Industrial Personal Contracted Appraisal Firm Source: Starr County Appraisal District.
Most appraisal districts contract out some appraisals to appraisal firms. PTD does not track parcel counts appraised by external appraisers in appraisal districts. Appraisal district contracts with external appraisers routinely do not include a parcel count for the number of appraisals an external appraisal company will perform. In assessing the staff to parcel count ratio in each appraisal district, PTD uses parcel counts reported in the district's 2003 self report and the county's independent school districts self reports to calculate the parcels per appraisal district staff. PTD does include all of the commercial real and personal property parcels in the calculation, since PTD is unable to determine exactly how many parcels are assigned to in-house staff versus a contract appraisal firm. The total parcels appraised in-house are calculated by summing the total number of parcels reported in Categories: A, Single Family Residential; B, Multifamily Residential; C, Vacant Lots; D, Rural Land; E, Rural Improvements; F1, Commercial Property; L1, Personal Property; M1, Mobile Homes; O, Residential Inventory; and S, Special Inventory, as shown in Exhibit 3.
Reported Data on Parcels, Categories Staffing, Training and Operations Comparison to State and Group Averages
General Information Starr State Avg. Group Avg. Parcel Size Group (by number of locally appraised parcels) 35,000 - 49,999 Estimated # Locally Appraised Parcels 48,376 55,463 41,470 # Taxing Units 7 15 15 Locally Appraised Parcels to Staff 3,225 3,404 3,558 2003 Composition by
Percentage of Value (Self Report):
Starr State Avg. Group Avg. Residential Value 21.1% 52.6% 39.1% Non-Residential, Non Mineral 40.7% 43.6% 54.3% Non-Residential, Mineral 38.2% 3.7% 6.6% 2003 Composition by
Account Category Type (Operations Survey):
Real Property 49,752 45,804 37,582 Mineral Property 24,615 13,536 12,159 Business Personal Property 1,131 4,689 1,922 Individual Personal Property 2,931 1,342 1,166 Total Accounts 78,429 65,372 52,829 2003 Composition by
Locally Appraised Parcel Category
(Estimated from Self Report):
Starr State Avg. Group Avg. Parcel Type # Parcels % of Parcels A 14,510 30.0% 44.1% 30.2% B 205 0.4% 1.0% 0.3% C 11,214 23.2% 13.1% 22.9% D 16,221 33.5% 24.7% 25.2% E 405 0.8% 4.5% 9.8% F1 1,116 2.3% 3.1% 2.8% L1 4,054 8.4% 5.7% 4.0% M1 651 1.3% 2.2% 3.0% O 0 0.0% 1.4% 1.6% S 0 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% Total 48,376 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
PTD estimated that Starr CAD staff is responsible for appraising about 48,376 parcels. The IAAO Standards state that small taxing units run from 1,500 to 1,700 parcels per staff member and large taxing units run from 3,000 to 3,500 parcels per staff member with an average of 2,500 parcels per staff member.
Districts comparable in size to Starr CAD are Orange, Harrison, Cherokee, and Van Zandt CADs. The number of parcels per staff member for Starr CAD was 3,225. Orange CAD was 3,399, Harrison CAD was 3,232, Cherokee CAD was 4,981 and Van Zandt CAD was 3,225. Of course, workloads in appraisal districts may vary, sometimes drastically, due to any number of considerations other than parcel count. Geography or the size of an appraisal district may have a significant impact on the time required to work all parcels. The types of properties may also have an impact. More complex commercial and sometimes even residential properties may require more staff to appraise. The data given here is meant to give the reader a comparison to other appraisal districts with similar parcel counts and the standards determined by IAAO.
Exhibit 3 includes reported data concerning CAD, state and group averages.
Exhibit 3 (continued)
Reported Data on Parcels, Categories Staffing, Training and Operations Comparison to State and Group Averages
Financial and Staffing Information (Operations Survey) Starr State Avg. Group Avg. 2003 Budget $745,785 $1,079,695 $629,090 2003 Surplus $15,000 $71,620 $17,334 2003 Surplus as % of Budget 2.0% 6.6% 2.8% 2004 Budget $726,705 $1,104,961 $656,877 % Change in Budget -2.6% $0 4.4% 2004 Budget per Total Local Parcel $15.02 $19.92 $15.84 Staffing Full Time 15 18 12 Part Time * 2 1 Supervisory 4 3 3 Programmers * 2 2 Supervisory to Staff Ratio 1:4 1:5 1:4 Chief Appraiser Performs Appraisals? Yes 2004 Total Compensation $46,239 $53,564 $55,687 Appraisers Full - Time 6 8 4 Part - Time * 0 1 Salary Range: Low $17,772 $24,504 $22,896 High $31,755 $37,521 $36,455 Training Budget $9,800 $8,832 $7,153 # Registered with BTPE (1) 7 9 6 Types of BTPE Certification: RPA (2) RTA (3) RTC (4) All 4 0 0 0 Operations Information (Operations Survey) Starr State Avg. Group Avg. Reappraisal Last Year of Reappraisal 2002 Next Year of Reappraisal 2005 Type of Appraisal: Complete Method of Appraisal: Combination Protests 190 3,131 709 Protests per Parcel 0.2% 4.7% 1.2% Consolidated Collection No Collection Budget $0 Geographic Information System (GIS)? No Percent GIS Complete N/A 80% 65% Board of Directors Members 6 6 6 Tax Assessor Votes? No Elected Members 6 3 2 Note: An asterisk (*) is shown where data was not reported.
Notes: (1) BTPE - Board of Professional Tax Examiners. (2) RPA - Registered Professional Appraiser. (3) RTA - Registered Tax Assessor-Collector. (4) RTC - Registered Texas Collector.
Source: Starr CAD's Self Report and ISDs 2003 Self Reports and Comptroller 2003-2004 Appraisal District Operations Report and Comptroller comparative data for state and group averages from district self reports and the Appraisal District Operations Report.
Self Evaluation Questionnaire
In preparation for the Appraisal Standards Review, Starr CAD was requested to complete the IAAO's Self Evaluation Questionnaire. This instrument allows an appraisal district to assess their compliance with acceptable procedures, standards and organization. Each district receives an electronic version of the questionnaire and the complete IAAO manual explaining each question with information on how to answer each question. Each district undergoing an appraisal standards review is requested to perform the self assessment, with the goal of assisting the district in determining how well it is performing.
Starr County answered all 110 questions. The district gave mostly simple yes or no answers. The district's answers are included in Appendix 15.
In Chapter 1, on legal issues and assessment cycles, the district noted it has adequate resources to operate efficiently and effectively.
In Chapter 2, on resource management, the district noted it does not engage in any formal planning or preparing of formal resource estimates. While the district noted its funding is adequate, its office space is considered inadequate by the chief appraiser.
In Chapter 3, on computerization, and Chapter 4, mapping, the district felt it has adequate computer resources, but it does not provide web access to taxpayers. The district noted that it does not have a geographic information system, that it does not timely update maps when deeds change and that its maps are not computerized.
In Chapter 5, data collection, the district does not include computerized records of data for current property use, zoning, and land attributes. The district also has no program for collecting income data.
In Land Evaluation, Chapter 6, the district does not use statistical software to help develop land values nor does it use market-derived table to make size or depth adjustments. In Chapters 7, 8 and 9, on residential property valuation, commercial property valuation, and sales data, respectively, the district noted it does not have sales for comparison purposes, does not make an effort to collect income information on commercial properties, does not maintain income data but that it does screen real estate sales and uses sales in valuation analyses.
In Chapter 10, on personal property assessment, the district noted it uses several methods for discovering personal property, although it did not note what they are.
In Chapter 11, on assessment administration, the district noted it does not update ownership records within 30 days of deed changes, although it noted earlier it had adequate staffing. The district noted in Chapter 12, defense of values, that the district has adequate resources to addressing taxpayer appeals.
In public relations, Chapter 13, the district noted that it had an active public relations program for reaching out to the public, but did not elaborate. The district does not use a GIS to assist the public with information requests.
Findings of the Property Value Study and Summary Worksheets
The Property Value Study (PVS) determines the total property value in each school district in the Starr CAD. With a few notable exceptions, all CADs and the Property Tax Division (PTD) are required by law to appraise property at market value. Agricultural land and timberland are appraised according to productivity value. Market value, in short, is the price that a property would transfer from a willing seller to a willing buyer. For it to be a market transaction, neither party may be under duress to buy or sell, the sale must be on the market for a reasonable time and the parties to the sale are not related.
Local tax roll value, or local value, is determined by the county appraisal district and submitted to PTD on its annual self-report. The PTD staff estimates the total taxable value in a school district, referred to as state value, by determining market value or by accepting the local appraised value in each property category (see Exhibit 2) in the district and then adding these category values for an overall school district value. PTD then deducts the following: state-mandated homestead exemptions; disabled veterans' exemptions; value limitations; reinvestment zones; freeport exemptions; the loss between market value and productivity value appraisal of qualified agricultural lands; the school tax ceiling for homeowners over age 65 or disabled; and other state-mandated exemptions.
PTD issues a preliminary and final PVS each year. School districts and county appraisal districts may protest the findings of the preliminary PVS through an administrative hearings process with the Comptroller, and school districts may protest the findings of the final PVS in district court. The administrative hearings process requires the protester to file a written protest with supporting documentation within 40 days of the issuance of the preliminary PVS. The PTD may amend the findings of the preliminary PVS based on the submission of the written protest, an informal hearing or a formal hearing. Formal hearings are held by a hearings examiner, appointed by the Comptroller's General Counsel, and reporting directly to the Comptroller. The hearings examiner is not an employee of the PTD.
When conducting the property value study, PTD assigns properties to various categories, such as residential, commercial and rural property. Properties are divided into categories so that like properties are assessed together.
Starr CAD did not protest the findings for Roma ISD. Therefore, the findings of the study were final in July 2004.
A review of the school districts in the county indicates that Starr CAD is inconsistently appraising the single-family residence properties, vacant lots and rural homes and consistently under-assessing qualified agricultural properties as determined by the PTD. In the 2003 PVS, Roma ISD fell outside the study's statistical margin of error. Single-family residences (category A) are the primary reason that the school's values are not within the acceptable range determined by the study.
There are six property categories tested in Roma ISD: category A, Single-Family Residences, making up 36.3 percent of the school district's value with a weighted mean ratio of .9219; category C, Vacant Lots, making up 6.9 percent of the district's value with a weighted mean ratio of .8288; category D, Rural Real, making up 7.7 percent of the school district's value with a weighted mean ratio of .9320; category F1, Commercial Real, making up 7.4 percent of the school district's value with a weighted mean ratio of .9818; category G, Minerals, making up 22.3 percent of the school district's value with a weighted mean ratio of .9682; and category J, Utilities, making up 8.8 percent of the school district's value with a weighted mean ratio of .9555.
In general, a ratio of between .95 and 1.05 in any property category makes it more likely that the district is appraising property within the margin of error, or that it is appraising property at or near market value, according to the PVS.
Roma ISD's category A makes up 45 percent of the tested value. The appraisal district is placing a value on the category A Single-Family Residences below market value by a weighted mean ratio of .9219. The primary value range of under appraisal appears to be single-family residences valued below $32,800. Category C, Vacant Lots, contributed to the school district being identified as eligible, receiving a weighted mean ratio of .8288. The vacant lots assessed less than $12,800 are below market value. The vacant lots above $12,800 are assessed at 114 percent of market value. Category D represents Rural Properties and contains two subcategories: D1 and D2. Subcategory D1, Productivity Value of Qualifying Acres, is primarily farm and ranch land that qualifies for the special productivity appraisal. Subcategory D2, Non-Qualifying Acres and Farm and Ranch Improvements, is primarily rural homes and land that does not qualify for farming, ranching or timberlands. The differences in value between qualified and non-qualified rural land are often wide since D1 land is appraised using a special statutory method to determine the lands productivity value and D2 is based on what the land would sell for in an open market transaction. Category D tested with a weighted mean ratio of .9320. Roma ISD's subcategory D1 makes up 66.4 percent of category D's value and 6 percent of the tested value. D1 received a weighted mean ratio of .9008. Subcategory D2 makes up 33.6 percent of category D's value and 3 percent of the school district's total tested value. D2 received a weighted mean ratio of 1.0005. The other tested categories in the school district range from 95.5 percent to 98.2 percent of market value.
Besides Roma ISD, the other school districts in the county are Rio Grande City ISD and San Isidro ISD.
Rio Grande City ISD's category A makes up 33 percent of the tested value. The appraisal district is placing a value on the category A single-family residences within the margin of error and just below market value by a weighted mean ratio of .9809. Category C, Vacant Lots, tested with a weighted mean ratio of .9041. Category D tested with a weighted mean ratio of .9119. Rio Grande City ISD's subcategory D1 makes up 71.3 percent of category D's value and 5 percent of the tested value. D1 received a weighted mean ratio of .8936. Subcategory D2 makes up 28.7 percent of category D's value and 2 percent of the school district's total tested value. D2 received a weighted mean ratio of .9609. Category F1, Commercial Real, received a weighted mean ratio of .9978. Category G, Minerals, received a weighted mean ratio of 1.0233. Category L1, Commercial Personal, tested with a weighted mean ratio of .9959.
San Isidro ISD's category A makes up less than 5 percent of the school district's value and was not tested. Category D tested with a weighted mean ratio of .9138. San Isidro ISD's subcategory D1 makes up 88.4 percent of category D's value and 9 percent of the tested value. D1 received a weighted mean ratio of .9194. Subcategory D2 makes up 11.6 percent of category D's value and 1 percent of the school district's total tested value. D2 received a weighted mean ratio of .8731. Category G, Minerals, is 73 percent of the school district's value tested with a weighted mean ratio of .9899.
In summary, the Starr CAD needs to focus on category A valuation of single-family residences. Category C, Vacant Lots, and subcategory D, Productivity Value of Qualifying Acres are also under appraised. The appraisal district needs to review their appraisal procedures and methodology primarily in the single-family residences to determine why it is under appraising this category of property.
For a statistical explanation of why the district was selected as eligible see Appendix 18.