A Gregg County Appraisal District error has left local governments to adjust their budgets for losses into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At almost $500,000, Longview ISD took the biggest loss in property tax levy from the mistake that involved two of the district’s school campuses, Chief Appraiser Libby Neely said.
Also impacted were the city of Longview, Gregg County and the county’s Road and Bridge Fund for a total loss of around $780,000 for all four entities.
“Thankfully, we are early in our budget year and can make adjustments,” city spokesman Shawn Hara said. “Furthermore, we have healthy reserves to be able to overcome the shortfall if need be.”
How it happened
In the past year, Longview ISD has replatted properties at and surrounding its two Montessori campuses — the East Texas Montessori Prep Academy on Eastman Road and also at Ware East Texas Montessori Academy.
The campuses collectively are valued at $34.6 million but are exempt from taxation because they are governmental properties.
When appraisal district personnel entered geographic identification numbers and info into its data system, however, “We did not put the (tax) exemption code on them,” Neely said. “We failed to apply the exemption code on those two accounts.”
The error was discovered by Neely after Longview ISD personnel found an inconsistency and questioned her about it, she said. By that time, the appraisal district already had presented certified taxable values to the local governments, who completed their budgets before Sept. 30.
“We found the errors. We corrected them, but the correction came after the time that we had certified our values to the entity, so they got an incorrect total taxable value,” Neely said. “Somebody called and asked, ‘Why were these accounts showing up?’ … We had already made the corrections by the time, but it was a week after we certified the tax roll to them.”
Along with Longview ISD, the city of Longview must amend its budget to reflect $193,420 less in projected property tax revenue, she said. Gregg County sustained an $89,000 levy loss, while the county Road and Bridge Fund was shortchanged $1,830.
While the local governments haven’t necessarily received their total tax levies — the deadline for property tax bill payment is Feb. 1 — the levy loss means that each entity must prepare to receive less revenue than it projected for the year.
When asked whether disciplinary actions were taken because of the error, the chief appraiser said merely that she wasn’t getting a raise in her salary this year and that other measures are being evaluated.
No cause for alarm
Longview ISD had projected to receive $65.459 million in property tax funding in 2019-20, which would have been $3 million more than in 2018-19. When adjusting those numbers after discovering the mistake, the district will receive just less than $65 million in tax funding, compared with $62.44 million in the previous year.
Longview ISD Chief Financial Officer Joey Jones said, “We will push through to still have a great 2019-2020 school year and absorb this fluctuation in our property values.”
School board president Ginia Northcutt also said, “I would think that if it’s a $500,000 change in our budget to the deficit, I do not think that’s anything to be alarmed about.”
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt had a similar sentiment.
“Because of the county’s financial condition, I think we’ll be able to weather it just fine,” Stoudt said, adding that the losses already were absorbed into the county’s and Road and Bridge Fund’s budgets.