Special to the News-Times
GROVETON — All appraisal districts in the State of Texas are required by state law to reappraise all real and personal property at least once every three years.
Ratio studies are conducted each year to identify the areas that need attention. Ratio studies are comprised of comparing sale prices of property to the current records of the district and to review the cost schedules being used by the district to arrive at the value for the property for the current year.
These studies are performed in all areas of the county to keep the values as equal and uniform as possible.
The term reappraisal simply means that the studies are read to keep the district records up to date to comply with the State Comptroller’s biannual Property Value Study. Reappraisal does not always mean that value will increase but ensures that the district is keeping up with the current market value of property.
Values could remain the same or in some cases actually decrease, however, the trend for the previous few years has indicated a steady rise in both land and improved property.
The Appraisal District is responsible for the appraisal of all properties located in the boundaries of Trinity County at 100 percent of its market value unless specified for the special use (Ag/Timber) valuation.
Strict adherence to these methods is required of the district in their attempt to appraise all property in a uniform, fair and equal result in value.
Property owners should be aware that appraisal districts are political subdivisions of the State of Texas and fall under the guidance and rules of the State Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division. This office conducts two different audits on appraisal district operations on a biannual schedule.
In one year, they perform a Methods and Procedures review to assure that the district has all manuals and required standards prescribed by law. In the following year they will perform a Property Value Study to assure that the district is following the reappraisal requirements as specified by the Tax Code and take samples of properties comparing the district’s values to recent sales or the PTAD will do their own appraisal and compare it to the district’s value.
This study is done to ensure that the Appraisal District is making every effort to keep all values current toward what is determined to be 100 percent of market value. Market value is defined as the price at which a property would transfer for cash or its equivalent under prevailing market conditions if:
•Exposed FOR SALE in the open market with a reasonable time for the seller to find a purchaser.
•Both the seller and the purchaser know of all the uses and purposes to which the property is adapted and for which it is capable of being used and of the enforceable restrictions on its use.
•Both the seller and the purchaser seek to maximize their gains, and neither is in a position to take advantage of the exigencies of the other.
The two studies or audits are repeated year after year in one of the two formats. Should the Appraisal District fall below the State’s guidelines it could eventually affect school district state funding.
The studies are performed by school district and the value findings are reported to the Texas Education Agency. The purpose for this connection to the TEA is to substantiate that the school district values indicate that the local effort to gain revenue for the school district is at the maximum level.
This information is to better inform property owners in Trinity County why reappraisals take place and how the district keeps records and values current. Trinity County currently contains approximately 30,000 parcels of property.
The TCAD staff has 10 full-time and two part-time people, which includes three people tasked for the collection of taxes for nine entities.
The remaining employees are assigned to Appraisal District operations, including two field appraisers. These are the people who ensure improvements are recorded yearly and keep up with changing market conditions.
Certain employees require certification, which includes passing a six-hour state exam.
Appraisal Districts are governed by a board of directors who are responsible for budgeting, supervising the chief appraiser, and setting district policy. The board has no involvement property valuation, but does create the biennial reappraisal plan.
Additionally, the board presides over dispute hearings and protests submitted by property owners for various disputes.
The Appraisal Review Board is a separate entity from the district; members must attend training on laws and rules. Their decisions are final.
The Appraisal Phase runs from Jan. 1 to May 15 of each year, when the district makes changes for the property owner if necessary. Once the records are turned over to the Appraisal Review Board on May 15 the Appraisal District is no longer in control; property owners should make every effort to correct problems during this phase.
The Equalization Phase runs from May 15 to July 20, and the records are in the hands of the Appraisal Review Board. The Appraisal District does attempt to deal with property owners informally to try and resolve disputes before going to the ARB, but when they are not the property owner still has the right to take their protest to the ARB.
The ARB must approve records by July 20; then the Chief Appraiser certifies the values to the taxing jurisdictions by July 25. This is a very critical time due to the information which has been certified to these entities give the required numbers to allow them to calculate tax rates.
Property owners should make every effort to resolve problems regarding appraisal, exemptions or deed changes by May 1 of the current year.
Once the roll is certified, the Assessment Phase starts and runs from July 25 through Oct. 1. Tax rates are calculated and published in the newspaper, which is done by assessors and collectors who also have to be certified by the state.
The governing bodies of the taxing entities — school boards, city councils, and commissioner courts — are involved in tax-rate calculation as well as setting tax rates.
After all that, the Collection Phase begins, running from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31. On Feb 1, current year taxes become delinquent and will begin to accrue penalty and interest. Delinquent taxes are collected throughout the year. If current taxes are not paid by July 1st of the year, they become delinquent and will incur an additional 20 percent penalty.
The taxing entity then turns the delinquent tax collections over to the attorneys, and all collection fees are passed onto the property owner. The Appraisal District has no involvement in the collection process, unless it is contracted to collect taxes.
The goal of the Trinity County Appraisal District is to provide the best service. This district is here to answer questions, fix problems and serve the community. For information and assistance, call (936) 642-1502.