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Appraisal District To End Records Suppression

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New Policy Will Give Property Owners 45 Days to Qualify for Confidentiality

The Board of Directors of the Travis Central Appraisal District last night picked a new chief appraiser and adopted a new policy to end the longstanding practice of suppressing public records in TCAD’s online searchable appraisal roll for anyone who asked.

Dick Lavine
Dick Lavine

“The board opted for maximum transparency,” Board Chairman Dick Lavine said today, in a follow-up interview. “It’s the appraisal district’s job to evaluate property and its records should be open to anyone to see how their own property and any other property is valued for tax purposes.”

The Austin Bulldog’s November 18 investigative report included spreadsheets listing nearly 1,400 properties that have been purged from the TCAD website at the request of owners who do not appear to qualify for confidentiality. Some two dozen of these properties are owned by businesses and 34 are commercial properties. The Austin Bulldog obtained the data through a Texas Public Information Act request.

By the end of this month the property owners listed in the spreadsheet should receive a letter inviting them to apply for confidentiality under Tax Code Section 20.025. Property owners will have until mid-January to reply. Those who do not apply or do not qualify will have their property records integrated into the searchable appraisal roll by the end of January.

Tax Code Section 20.025 offers to protect certain home address information for judges, police, victims of family violence and others who apply and qualify for confidentiality. Appraisal records for those who qualify under Section 20.025 are not listed on the TCAD website and will not be provided in response to a request filed under the Texas Public Information Act.

Billionaire Michael Dell, actress Sandra Bullock, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, and Tax Assessor-Collector Nelda Wells Spears are among the property owners whose records have been suppressed on the website but who do not qualify for confidentiality.

Crigler picked as new chief appraiser

Marya Crigler
Marya Crigler

In other action the TCAD Board of Directors named Marya Crigler to succeed Patrick Brown as TCAD’s chief appraiser. Brown, who became chief appraiser in January 2008, last night told The Austin Bulldog he will be leaving the job in six weeks.

“I’m very pleased the board chose Crigler as our new chief appraiser,” said Lavine, who’s been a board member for a dozen years and chairman since January. “She has a lot of experience in the district and a lot of support on the staff. We’re looking for her to move the district ahead with greater efficiency and more accurate appraisals.”

Crigler said she has been employed by TCAD since she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1989. She currently holds the position of IT director and deputy chief of operations.

Crigler is a graduate of the Texas Association of Appraisal District’s Chief Appraiser Institute, Class of 2009, and has served on numerous committees for the organization.

Crigler’s salary was $118,100 as of March 2011, according to the Texas Tribune’s database, which lists Brown’s salary as $129,000 on that date. Crigler told The Austin Bulldog she would be negotiating her compensation.

TCAD currently has 130 employees and an annual budget of $12.9 million. Funding to run the district’s operations is provided by the taxing entities for which TCAD provides appraisal services.

The district’s primary responsibility is to develop an annual appraisal roll for use by taxing units in imposing ad valorem taxes on property in the district. The Travis Central Appraisal District appraises property in all of Travis County, an area of 990.2 square miles according to U.S. Census data. TCAD is currently responsible for 395,692 tax accounts, according to a TCAD report dated November 21.

Related story:
Appraisal Records Hidden From Public View: Agencies Suppressing Online Records the Law Doesn’t Deem Confidential, November 18, 2011

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