Athens Review, Athens, Texas

June 13, 2013

Cash back

Appraisal district returns thousands to county coffers

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Henderson County Appraisal District Chief Appraiser Bill Jackson had some good news for county officials this week.

The district was $204,000 under budget last year, enabling it to return funds to the entities it serves. The largest portion, $53,874, was returned to Henderson County, the largest government served by the Appraisal District, with an annual tax levy of about $25 million.

One of the biggest differences between the budgeted amount and the actual expenses was in legal services. Jackson said he had to anticipate the amount of money he’ll spend in fighting legal action brought as a result of appraisals. The 2012 budgeted amount was $60,000, but the actual cost was $14,300.

“It costs a lot of money to litigate anything now,” Jackson said. “A lot of those cases go to arbitration, which reduces the cost substantially.”

Personnel management is another budget item that came in under budget. If an employee leaves after the busy part of the year, Jackson  may not replace them until the start of the following year. That accounted for $20,000 in savings in 2012.

Jackson said his office did much of its printing in-house, saving another $17,000. Postage costs, utilities and the amount spent on transportation to and from conferences were also down.

Jackson said his office is experimenting with new mapping software that could save as much as $100,000 over the next three years in personnel costs.

“That’s due to some new technology, called Pictometry,” Jackson said. “We’re going to experiment with it and see if there’s a savings there.”

The Appraisal District budget is presented each year to the Board of Directors. If it approves, it is sent to the entities.

“They have it for 30 to 40 days. Then I’ll publicize a budget hearing,” Jackson said. “Anybody is welcome to attend.”

Once the budget is passed, the entities have 30 days to veto it.

“There are 33 entities and I’d have to have 17 veto it for me to have to redo it,” Jackson said. “I’ve never had an entity veto my budget and I’ve been here 21 years.”

Henderson County, cities in the county and 13 school districts, including portions of the Van, Kemp and Frankston ISD’s, are among the entities. The various entities account for about $100 million in tax revenues, Jackson said.

The Appraisal District budget was $1,184,000. The county provides $469,000 of the total.

Other large portions come from: the Athens Independent School District, $254,000; Malakoff ISD, $221,000; Mabank ISD, $190,000; and Brownsboro ISD, $115,000.