Travis Central Appraisal District’s 2024 Proposed Budget shows an overall increase of 7.5 percent.
The proposed budget was presented to the district’s Board of Directors in a May 24th workshop by Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler and Deputy Chief Appraiser Leana Mann.
TCAD budgeted to add three new positions in 2024. That will bring the total strength to 156 positions. Of that number, 97 are involved in appraisals, 40 are in information systems, and 19 are in administration and general operations.
The proposed budget for 2024 without the legislative mandates required by bills awaiting the governor’s approval or veto totals $27.8 million, up from $25.9 million in 2023. If all the pending bills become law that would add another $534,285. New mandates in the special session underway could further increase the budget.
TCAD’s newest board member, Osezua Ehiyamen, who was jointly appointed by the City of Austin and Austin ISD, asked for an explanation of increased costs for legal services. The 2024 proposed budget totals $2,042,500 for legal services, up from $1,715,000 in 2023, a 19 percent hike.
Crigler responded by saying, “Ten years ago we had 174 lawsuits. Last year we had 1,789,” which amounts to a ten-fold increase.
In response to related board questions she said the district when sued accepts service on the litigation and then refers the cases to outside law firms to handle them from there. The firms that field these lawsuits are selected based on their expertise and the nature of the cases.
The TCAD board will meet again sometime in June to adopt a proposed budget to be furnished to taxing entities. A final vote to approve the 2024 budget would be taken in September.
How budget for ARB?
One inconsistency in the budget pertains to the budget for the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), an independent governmental entity that hears formal protests of property valuations set by the district’s appraisers that have not been resolved through the informal protest process.
Although the ARB is separate it depends on TCAD for its budget and administrative support.
The board voted at its December 12, 2022, meeting to reduce the ARB positions from the 200 budgeted in both 2021 and 2022 to 74 for the 2023 hearings. Yet the 2024 proposed budget includes funding for 100 positions.
The adopted ARB budget for 2023 was $1,121,995. The 2024 proposed budget is $1,223,125, an increase of $101,130.
When board member Deborah Cartwright, an Austin Austin ISD appointee, questioned that inconsistency, Crigler said it’s been an ongoing struggle to keep even 74 ARB members on board. One potential solution, she said, was pending legislation that would allow school teachers to serve on the ARB in the summer. That refers to Senate Bill 361 by State Senator Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin), which was sent to the governor May 23rd.
Crigler said the process of getting new ARB members on board was slowed considerably back when legislation took appointments out of the district’s hands and required they be appointed by the local administrative judge. Currently there are positions awaiting the judge’s action, she said. The current local administrative judge is Amy Clark Meachum, a position she has held since September 1, 2021.
Mann told the board it would be safe to ask the judge to appoint 100 ARB members and budget for 75, but she did not quantify the budget impact of that reduction. That would accommodate the historically high attrition among ARB members, many of whom are retirees.
At the TCAD Board’s meeting of April 19, 2023, Taxpayer Liaison Officer Betty Thompson, a former ARB chair who was hired in January, noted that she calculated the ARB actually has the full-time equivalent of 51.8 members.
“That’s what we will have for the summer hearings,” she said.
Also at the April meeting, the chief appraiser finally got a closed-door performance appraisal, something that traditionally had been done each December. The board voted unanimously to raise Crigler’s annual pay to $270,000 retroactive to January 1st and added a merit bonus of $13,500.
Crigler is now in her 34th year with TCAD, having been hired as a temporary appraiser trainee at $6 an hour soon after graduating the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor of science degree in radio-television-film, according to her personnel file.
Fewer protests filed in 2023
Crigler’s forecast for a smaller number of protests to be filed in 2023 turned out to be accurate in terms of the overall total. But while almost 4,600 fewer residential property owners filed protests in 2023 compared with 2022, slightly more protests were filed by commercial property owners in 2023. The largest declines were in protests over the values assigned to business personal property. (See chart.)
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 about Ken on the About page. Email [email protected].
2024 Proposed Budget for Travis Central Appraisal District, May 24, 2023 (24 pages)
Agenda for TCAD Board of Directors meeting, May 24, 2023 (1 page)
Agenda for TCAD Board of Directors meeting, April 19, 2023 (2 pages)
Meeting materials for the TCAD Board of Directors meeting, April 19, 2023 (154 pages)
Related Bulldog coverage:
Good news: No big jump in 2023 property values, February 21, 2023
Travis Appraisal Review Board members pared, December 22, 2022
Property value protests set new records, June 9, 2022
Appraised home values jump more than 50 percent, April 19, 2022