Tarrant County gets back $7 million loan for tax refunds

Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright said he’s received more accurate appraisal reports from the Tarrant Appraisal District in recent months.
Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright said he’s received more accurate appraisal reports from the Tarrant Appraisal District in recent months. Star-Telegram archives

With all of the refunds paid and new tax money flowing in, Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright is returning the $7 million loan he received from Tarrant County commissioners last month.

By paying the 5,100 refunds by Wednesday’s drop-dead date, Wright said he avoided paying any penalty and interest on the roughly $12 million owed to taxpayers. He expects the money to be back in county bank accounts Thursday.

“All the refunds are paid and the money is going back to the county,” Wright said. “By [Friday], I had $18 million in my account so there was never any doubt that they would be paid and paid on time.”

County commissioners voted to loan Wright the money after his office discovered that it needed to make the refunds at a time of year when the cash flow from tax collections was at a low ebb.

The tax refund situation was first reported in August when Wright’s office said it failed to get a trustworthy supplemental tax roll from the Tarrant Appraisal District showing changes stemming from homes being sold, property values changing and property owners requesting new exemptions.

The report showed that $8.7 million in refunds needed to be issued on top of the $3 million in refunds that Wright’s office was already processing. He described the size and the quantity of the refunds to be distributed as unprecedented for this time of year.

But after the latest round of tax bills were issued Oct. 1 and people started paying them, there was enough money in the coffers to pay the refunds without the loan from the county, Wright said. He also had enough money to release $3.5 million held back from the county’s taxing entities to pay the refunds.

Crisis averted. “It was not one. It could have been, but it wasn’t,” Wright said

Some county officials blamed the snafu on a software glitch. TAD Chief Appraiser Jeff Law has said the issues with the supplemental reports were due to increases in exemption requests and tax protests.

Tarrant County Auditor Renee Tidwell described the situation in August as very serious and said the computer problems could cause problems for years.

“I can’t prove there are going to be issues, but Mr. Law can’t prove there is not going to be,” Tidwell told the Star-Telegram.

Wright said the supplemental reports he’s received from TAD in recent months have been more typical, making it easier to manage his operations. He said the latest tax bills have not produced an unusual number of calls from taxpayers.

“When they can [produce accurate reports] for six months, I’ll be confident they have turned a corner,” he said.

Wright also said that he now talks to Law at least once a week, something that he previously didn’t do.

Law confirmed that he is in regular contact with the tax assessor’s office.

“Mr. Wright and I do talk weekly to ensure each of us [is] aware and communicating thoroughly,” Law said in a statement to the Star-Telegram Wednesday. “The appraisal district has been thoroughly reviewing the monthly supplemental reports, and will continue to do so, to ensure they [are] correct prior to sending them to the tax office.”

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB