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Appraisal district raises budget over 10 percent- BISD board says, 'Whoa, Nelly! Don't do that again!'

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Central Appraisal District of Bandera County is funded by the governmental entities for which it does property appraisals. Each entity pitches in to the common pot in order to have the valuations it needs to properly tax its constituents.

This month, Chief Appraiser Wendy Grams has been making the rounds to those taxing entities to submit the CAD's "bill" via the district's proposed 2013 budget which reflects a substantial increase over 2012.

Bandera ISD's Board President Dr. Barbara Skipper expressed her concern about the 10.6 percent increase in the CAD's budget when Grams attended the board's regular meeting held Monday, July 9.

"We've had to cut [our budget] for the last three years, and will have to cut again next year," said Skipper. "We can't have line items that go up."

According to Grams, the CAD's budget will total $690,191 for 2012-13. She explained that there were some mandates from the legislature that had to be provided for in order for the CAD to be in compliance with state requirements.

"We're required to be able to do appeals on-line," said Grams, explaining an increase in a line item for support and maintenance of software expenses. That requirement is a part of 2009 state legislation, HB 1030, that set a 2013 deadline for the on-line capability.

In a related expense, there was an increase in support and maintenance costs for server warranty renewals, which Grams explained is a shared cost with the county tax assessor and includes the software licenses needed for the on-line appeals.

The CAD's office also needs to replace its air conditioning unit, explaining a big increase in capital expenditures.

In a follow-up email to the Courier, Grams said "the 2013 Proposed Appraisal District Budget maintains district operation and staffing at current levels. It also meets requirements of legislation from 2009 and 2011, Comptroller rules and the 2013 MAP Review."

Grams said the Appraisal District Board of Directors did not approve pay schedules across the board.

However, another increase in expenses is due to education costs "due to staff appraisers receiving level certifications and additional requirement for all staff to have training and education," said Grams.

"All of these things you have here are important," said Skipper. "I've been in your office. It's hot. You do need a new air conditioner."

However, Skipper said every governmental agency deals with unfunded mandates, including the school district. Skipper explained that in a tight economy the district has had to give up dreams of "Cadillacs" and settled for "Chevys." Indeed, in the next budget cycle Skipper said the district may have to go with "Hundais."

"We ask ourselves how can we do it smarter and less expensive," said Skipper. For example, regarding anti-virus programs, the school board advised using freeware to save money.

Skipper told Grams that the unexpected increase in the CAD's budget could mean the equivalent of cutting one teacher position for the district's budget. "For next year, we'd like to see these one-time expenses dropped," she said.