Editorials

Tax appraisal district critic faces obstacles

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Ron Wright, Tarrant County’s tax assessor-collector, has a non-voting seat on the Tarrant Appraisal District board.
Ron Wright, Tarrant County’s tax assessor-collector, has a non-voting seat on the Tarrant Appraisal District board. kbouaphanh@star-telegram.com

Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright doesn’t like the way the Tarrant Appraisal District has been run lately, and he wants to get in there and fix it.

Good for him. But what he wants is easier said than done.

The Legislature created appraisal districts across Texas in 1979, part of a huge reform effort to make the state’s property system more fair and uniform.

Districts like TAD are supposed to focus solely on setting appraisals that match the true market value of property. Tax rates, which determine how much must be paid in taxes on that property, are set by elected governing bodies like city councils, school boards and county commissioners courts.

Lawmakers went out of their way to shield the appraisal districts and their boards of directors from political pressure.

Under state law, Wright already has an ex officio seat on the five-member TAD board, but he can’t vote on policies. He wants to vote.

He could do that by being appointed as a full board member just like the five who have votes now. County commissioners could nominate him when seats for two-year board terms are filled next year.

But it’s complicated. The way the Legislature set things up, the 73 taxing entities served by TAD cast 5,000 votes for board seats, with each body allocated a number of votes based on the dollar amount of taxes they collect.

In the board election a year ago, the Fort Worth City Council cast 623 votes and Arlington cast 191.

No single tax entity has enough votes to elect a board member, so they have to form coalitions.

No board member is beholden to one tax entity, but it’s hard to get on the board.

Another way Wright could get a voting seat is if the current board were to propose adding one or more members and/or changing the selection procedure.

But any one of the 73 taxing entities served by TAD could block the change.

Finally, Wright could get the governing bodies of 55 of those taxing entities to propose a change that would put him on the board. He’d just have to convince 250 or more local elected officials that what he wants is right.

Good luck with that, Ron.

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