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2012-04-12

'We're here to help'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

During his State of the County Address to members of the Ranchers and Landowners of Texas membership on Tuesday, March 27, Bandera County Judge Richard Evans quipped, "Don't blame me for your property values. That's the lady coming up!"

After this informal introduction, Central Appraisal District (CAD) Chief Appraiser Wendy Grams offered an overview of the work done by her office.

"Our office is here to serve and help you," she said. "If you're not breaking the law, we will help you."

According to Grams, CAD responsibilities include:

• Developing an annual appraisal roll for taxing entities to use for imposing ad valorem taxes on property in the district.

• Applying appropriate exemptions and special valuations to properties.

• Serving as a source of information for both property owners and governmental agencies in the county.

Noting, "What I do is not new. This has been around a long time," Grams said that the first reference to using taxation for the educating Texas youth came in 1845. At that time, the Texas Constitution provided that one-tenth of state tax revenue be set aside to help support free public schools. This was reaffirmed in the Constitution in 1876. "This historical aspect reminds me that I'm working for the citizens, the county and for my kids."

Through ensuing years, land values increased due to developing urban areas, which nearly forced longtime ranchers out of business. "In 1966, voters amended the Constitution to allow for the first Agriculture Appraisal law, which was based on productivity rather than market value," Grams said. "However, 1-d protected only family-owned ranches and all income had to be derived from ranching.

Later, HB1060 expanded the agricultural valuation and also allowed for residential homestead exemptions.

In 1979, the 66th Texas Legislature revised tax laws extensively. "Prior to this time, all taxing entities appraised properties separately," said Grams. "Appraisal districts were then established in each county resulting in elimination of duplicate and conflicting appraisals by multiple tax officials." She also explained that CAD operating costs are shared by the taxing entities.

The Texas Constitution also sets forth basic rules for property tax, including:

• Equal and uniform taxation

• Not taxing any single property or type of property more than its fair market value

• Taxing all property at its market value

• Offering exemptions as stipulated in the Texas Constitution.

"If property taxes are imposed fairly and equally, paying them can be more palatable," Grams said.

Residents over the age of 65 can apply for homestead exemptions, and veterans determined to be 100 percent disabled pay not property taxes at all. This exemption can be transferred to a spouse at the death of the veteran.

According to Grams, important dates to remember include:

• Jan. 1 - Assessment date

• May 30 - Protest deadline

• Oct. 1 (approximately) - Tax statements mailed

• Feb. 1 of the following year - Taxes become delinquent

"The State of Texas has direct oversight of local appraisal districts," Grams said. "During audits, the state requires that all property be appraised at 100 percent of its market value. The district's policies and procedures are also reviewed during audits."

She also noted, "If appraisals are not 95 to 105 percent of market values, the school district will be penalized. If audits show after a third year of too low appraisals, the state will come in and run the local appraisal district."

According to Grams, appraisal districts ascertain property value by reviewing sales information, determining whether a property is capable of producing an income and determining the cost of building structures on the property.

"We also group large properties together and apply a mean value across the board," she said. "Despite a large portion of Bandera County being behind locked gates, every three years, our appraisers must step foot on every property." She added, "This isn't a perfect system, but this is what the law says we must do."

Grams invited residents to participate in the regular meetings of CAD, which are usually held at 5:30 pm, the third Tuesday of every month.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 17.

In closing, Grams reiterated, "Our office is here to serve you. We can give you information and help."

She can be contacted at 830-796-3039 or bancad@indian-creek.net.

The CAD website is

www.banderaproptax.org


Pictured: County Judge Richard Evans and Central Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Wendy Grams served as guest speakers at a recent meeting of the Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas.