|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Appraisal district budget under fire
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY — A proposed $91,000 increase in spending by the Trinity County Appraisal District (TCAD) was threatened Monday when three of the county's taxing entities voted to reject it. During separate meetings, the Trinity County Commissioners Court, the Trinity Independent School District's board and the Trinity City Council each unanimously voted to oppose TCAD's proposed 2014 budget. According to TCAD Chief Appraiser Greg Cook, if a total of four taxing entities reject the budget, the appraisal district would have to submit a new one for their approval. While there are nine tax collecting entities in Trinity County, only seven are granted voting powers regarding the budget and the election of TCAD board members. Special districts such as the Trinity Memorial Hospital District and the Westwood Shores Municipal Utility District have no voting powers. During Monday morning's county commissioners' meeting, commissioners questioned what they considered to be high salaries paid to TCAD employees and the raises being granted under the new budget. During the Trinity School Board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Dave Plymale recommended rejecting the budget based on recent economic factors. He noted that over the past two years, school districts throughout the state had to reduce personnel due to cuts in state spending. The TISD cut 25 positions during that period. During all this, he said TCAD has been increasing its spending. He noted on top of the $91,000 increase proposed for 2014, in 2012 TCAD's budget rose by $95,000. " That's an increase of well over $180,000 in about two and a half years and I don't think it is justified," he said. The proposed TCAD budget for 2014 totals $890,847, up from the current year's figure of $799,662. It represents an 11.4 increase, which means that each of the taxing entities would have to increase their share of the TCAD cost by 11.4 percent next year. The amount of money each tax entity pays to support TCAD is based on its annual tax levy. Under this formula, Trinity County pays one-third of the TCAD's cost. During the current 2013 budget, the county is paying $266,787 but under the proposed 2014 plan, that would jump by $30,419 to $297,186. TISD is the second largest taxing entity and pays 25.4 percent of the TCAD budget. Under the current budget it pays $203,194 but the 2014 plan calls for an increase of $23,170 to $226,364. The City of Trinity pays about 4 percent of the TCAD budget. Under the current budget it is paying $31,426 but that would climb to $35,010 under the proposed plan. Other entities and their proposed 2014 payments include: • Groveton ISD, $170,597, which is up from $153,135 in 2013. • Centerville ISD, $27,349, which is up from $24,549 in 2013. • Apple Springs ISD, $25,923, which is up from $23,270 in 2013. • City of Groveton, $17,727, which is up from $15,913 in 2013 • Westwood Shores MUD, $51,134, which is up from $45,900 in 2013. • Trinity Memorial Hospital District, $39,108, which is up from $35,105 in 2013. TCAD is the agency charged with setting the taxable values of all property in Trinity County. These values are used by all taxing entities when they assess taxes each year. In his presentations to both the county commissioners and Trinity School Board, Cook said the added funds were needed in order to meet state requirements. A large portion of the $91,000 increase was earmarked to hire another appraiser. Cook noted that the state wants each county to have its property reappraised in value every three years. "To meet that three-year cycle, I need another appraiser," he said. "We need to have people out in the field looking at improvements and adding them to the tax roll." Regarding the raises and salaries, Cook said the district was trying to remain competitive with others in the area. He noted that when a new appraiser is hired, they must undergo extensive training that could cost TCAD up to $15,000 per person by the time travel costs, lodging and meals are considered. Unless the district offers a salary competitive to others, as soon as the new appraiser completes all that training and earns the required certificates, they often leave to accept higher paying jobs in other counties. Cook noted in 2013 TCAD finally complied with a state-mandated requirement that all property be appraised at between 95 and 105 percent of market value. Market value is the price the property would be expected bring if sold. During 2013, Trinity County's appraisals were listed at 96 percent of market value. "This doesn't mean much to the county or the cities, but it does to the schools," Cook said. He noted that state funding to schools is tied to the market value appraisals and that schools in counties with values outside the 95 to 105 percent target lose state funds. Speaking in support of Cook and the work of TCAD during the TISD meeting was Tab Beall, a representative of the delinquent tax collecting firm working throughout Trinity County. Beall said since Cook joined the TCAD in 2012, a more aggressive approach has been taken in collecting past-due taxes that has allowed his office to increase the delinquent tax collection rate. Noting that failing to achieve the minimum 95 percent rating on market value appraisals could cost the school district up to $200,000 each year in state funding.