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Comptroller finds values are too low across the county

Feb. 27, 2012 at 11 p.m.

The Texas Comptroller's Property Tax Assistance Division Preliminary findings show Cass County Appraisal District's values are too low for 2011.

Cass County Chief Appraiser Leann Lee said McLeod ISD and Bloomburg ISD's local taxable values were found to be invalid, and state value was certified because local value did not exceed the state value and is less than 90 percent of the lower end of the margin of error range.

"Bloomburg and McLeod's school funding from the state could be impacted this year because the comptroller's office has determined our local values are too low," Lee said.

Hughes Springs ISD, Linden-Kildare CISD, Avinger ISD, and Atlanta ISD values were also considered too low, but not out of the acceptable range so they are in their first year of grace, Lee said.

"Their values are low but not less than 90 percent," she explained. "Their school funding from the state is not in jeopardy this year."

Queen City ISD is in its second year of grace because values were found to be too low in 2009 and they were in their first year of grace in 2009.

"Queen City's funding from the state is not in jeopardy this year but could be if local values are found to be too low another year," Lee said. "McLeod ISD and Bloomburg ISD are protesting the comptroller's findings. If in the protests they show the local values are valid their school funding from the state would not be impacted."

Lee explained the state establishes how much money should be spent per student across Texas. If a school district doesn't have a lot of local value in property to reach that per-student amount, the state makes up the difference.

"If the state establishes there is more local value than what we have on our roll then they only pay schools on the higher amount or what they establish the local value should be," Lee stated. "So local funding for the school is generated on what the appraisal district has as the value but the state only funds the schools on the higher amount. That causes a shortfall in the school's budget. There is an acceptable range of 95 to 105 percent where our values would be acceptable but we were even below that range.

She has requested the records the comptroller's appraisers used to compile their data.

"I am waiting to get those so I can analyze how they determined the value on Cass County property. Our values are supposed to be based on 'market value'," Lee said.

Market value is defined as the price for which the property would sell if held on the open market for a reasonable time, the buyer and seller know all of the uses for the property and restrictions on the property's use, and neither party is under any compulsion or unusual pressure.

"When I get the data from the state I can develop a plan to address the issue," Lee said. "Right now I know we were okay on land value in some districts. However, they considered houses to be low across the board. So we may have to look at our values on houses. I will not know until I can look at the state's data what we are going to have to do."

Lee said all of the superintendents are meeting on Tuesday, March 20, to discuss this issue with the appraisal district and the law firm representatives for handling the protests for McLeod and Bloomburg.

Lee said the comptroller of Public Accounts' Property Tax Assistance Division conducts a property value study to estimate a school district's taxable property value. The Property Value Study (PVS) is conducted as a ratio study.

Property appraisal roll values are divided by their market values, which results in a ratio measuring effectiveness of the appraisal district's appraisals.

The comptroller's office says "the primary purpose of the PVS is to help ensure equitable distribution of state funding for public education." The results of the PVS can affect a school district's state funding.

The Commissioner of Education uses the PVS to ensure equitable distribution of education funds so school districts have roughly the same number of dollars to spend per student, regardless of the school district's property wealth.

In very general terms, school districts with less taxable property value per student receive more state dollars for each pupil than school districts with more value per student.

The comptroller's preliminary results for the Cass County Appraisal District are: see chart



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