Appraisal District board approves $25.7 million budget

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Board of Directors at Travis Central Appraisal District meeting of September 1, 2022

Fiscal Year 2023 budget increased nearly 13 percent over FY 2022

The board of Travis Central Appraisal District voted unanimously Thursday to approve a proposed FY 2023 budget of $25,683,866. That’s up 12.72 percent over the FY 2022 budget of $22,786,110. The budget covers calendar year 2023 and will take effect January 1st.

The main driver of the higher budget is an increase of $1.8 million in the cost of personnel and benefits, based on an authorized strength of 153 employees, an increase of 10 over the number authorized for FY 2022.

The cost of the appraisal district’s budget is paid by the 135 local government agencies it serves, including 60 municipal utility districts, 21 cities, 18 emergency services districts, 17 water control improvement districts, 15 school districts, plus Travis County, Central Health, Austin Community College, and one road district. School districts pay for more than 52 percent of TCAD’s budget, cities more than 19 percent, the county nearly 16 percent.

While none of these taxing jurisdictions is able to increase their budgets by anything approaching the percentage hike in TCAD’s budget, the reality is that the fees they pay to the appraisal district quarterly amount to just a tiny fraction of their outlays and are therefore inconsequential.

Tax rolls certified on time, again

For the second year running, TCAD and the Appraisal Review Board working together were able to get property tax rolls certified on time. That despite being faced with a record 171,000-plus protests of property values this year and despite the resignation of 50 percent of the appointed members of the Appraisal Review Board.

Craig Phifer

ARB Chair Craig Phifer told the TCAD board that on-time certification would not have been possible without TCAD’s initiative to enter Top Line Settlements (Joint Motions to Dispose of Protests and Request for Agreed Order), and settle protests through the informal process.

The Bulldog’s investigative report of December 13, 2021, detailed the extraordinary efforts made that year to overcome the failure to certify on time in two previous years. This year was no different.

For the 2023 protest season, Phifer said plans are to have 40 ARB panels operating and all of them back in the TCAD office building. “People working at home don’t have to focus or pay attention, and brag about having lunch or doing laundry,” he said, noting that appraisers were calling when the panel members were not in session when scheduled. “We need to get them back in the room.”

TCAD selling its surplus properties

As the Bulldog reported March 31st, TCAD turned down a $5.5 million offer for its former office building and adjacent lot.

At Thursday’s meeting the board approved the sale of its real property located at 8314 Cross Park Drive and 2304 Forbes Drive for $6.7 million, “in order to defray the debt service cost on TCAD’s new building at 850 E. Anderson Lane.” Closing is scheduled to occur no later than September 16th.

The sale price is $1.2 million more than the original offer it rejected, but $950,000 less than the listed asking price of $7.65 million.

Jay Legg

Jay Legg of MFB Real Estate Services, who represents 5205 Acquisitions LLC in buying these properties, told The Austin Bulldog that plans are to lease out the 34,909-square-foot office building at 8304 Cross Park and market the adjacent 1.37-acre lot at 2304 Forbes Drive to build to suit the purchaser.

“We own three other properties on Cross Park,” Legg said. “We like the area. That building will be difficult to lease but we think we can.”

He said those three other Cross Park properties are owned through other partnerships and not 5205 Acquisitions. He said those partnerships do not involve Crest Park Ventures or Mitch Kralis, who had the original contract to buy the TCAD properties until the agency cancelled the deal.

These properties have sat idle for about 20 months, since TCAD completed renovation and remodeling of its new offices at 850 E. Anderson Lane and relocated of its workforce.

Cynthia Martinez

Cynthia Martinez, TCAD’s communications director, said the goal is to use proceeds of the sale would be to “shorten the length of the note” on the new headquarters. “We don’t have estimates of savings yet.”

The 72,720-square-foot office at 850 E. Anderson Lane was purchased  June 7, 2019, for $8.53 million using a $10 million loan from the Government Capital Corporation. TCAD paid about $8.4 million to renovate that structure. It did not have the funds needed to build an adjacent parking garage, as originally planned. The 20-year note called for quarterly payments of $187,298 and change. The total cost over the life of the contract would be $14,983,873.

New contract for imaging services

The TCAD board voted to approve a six-year contract with Cyclomedia to provide “street level imagery” with “patented technology that creates spherical 360-degree images.”

Think of it as Google Street View but with better images that will facilitate the work of appraisers.

Marya Crigler

Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler said that TCAD will be able to provide this technology for use by any of the taxing jurisdictions it serves, and do so for free. She envisioned cities might use it to inspect and maintain utility infrastructure like utility lines, poles and manhole covers. “It’s a really powerful tool,” she said.

The images, known as “GeoCycloramas,” are taken approximately every 16.4 feet. The cameras also capture LiDAR data that allows the software to pinpoint an exact location of an object, providing multiple viewing perspectives of all objects in an image. Those images can be integrated with TCAD’s current technologies to allow appraisers to conduct more in-depth desktop appraisals and assist staff to determine property classes and conditions with better accuracy.

The budgeted cost is $360,000 a year for six years, totaling $2.16 million, and is based on the miles traveled. The district estimates about 9,000 miles will be captured on each drive. The six-year contract would complete three separate image captures. The streets to be driven would be determined by the appraisal district.

Leana Mann

Deputy Chief Appraiser Leana Mann said the cost of the contract was “locked in for budget purposes but we can cancel” for any year because of funding issues.

The company’s website provides more information about the technology.

Trust indicators: Ken Martin has been covering local government and politics in the Austin area since 1981 and investigating and reporting on Travis Central Appraisal District since 2011. See more on Ken on the About page. Email [email protected]

Related documents:

TCAD Board of Directors meeting materials for September 1, 2022 (139 pages)

TCAD Budget for 2023, September 1, 2022 (214 pages)

TCAD Commercial Contract for sale of its surplus properties, June 23, 2022 (15 pages)

Related Bulldog coverage:

Appraised home values jump more than 50 percent, April 19, 2022

TCAD asking $7.65 million for unused properties, March 31, 2022

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