Public Education on the Ballot: New Elected Positions to be Filled in May 4 Local Elections Will Decide Who Controls Local Property Tax Revenue 

Texas voters will cast their ballots for three new elected positions in the local elections to be held on May 4. This local election date is separate from the May 28 uniform election date on which runoff elections will be held; voters in some places will have the opportunity to vote in two consequential elections in May. 

Central Appraisal Districts (CADs) in Texas are responsible for determining the fair market value of all taxable property within their county. They use this information to create a property tax roll that includes ownership details, values, and applicable exemptions. This tax roll is then used by cities, counties, school districts, community colleges, and other taxing units to calculate property tax bills based on tax rates set by those taxing entities. CADs also provide support to property owners by offering information about the appraisal process, potential exemptions, and handling protests if a property owner disagrees with their assessed value. 

Prior to a change in the law made during the 88th legislative session, which was incorporated into a constitutional amendment approved by voters in the November election (Proposition 4, the omnibus property tax relief measure), all positions on CADs’ boards of directors were appointed by the local taxing entities mentioned above. 

Under the new law, three of the eight members of the CAD board of directors will be elected and the local tax assessor-collector will serve as an ex-officio director. This change only affects CADs in counties with a population of 75,000 or more. 

While the members of the board of directors do not play a role in setting tax rates, assigning property valuations, or hearing appraisal protests themselves, they are responsible for hiring the chief appraiser, approving the appraisal district’s budget, and appointing the members of the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), the body that handles appraisal protests. All these functions are necessary to ensure accurate and equitable appraisals, protect the integrity of property values, and maintain public trust in the appraisal system. As a significant portion of public school funding in Texas comes from local property taxes, it is important that these new elected positions are not politicized. 

One of the primary concerns regarding the potential politicization of these positions is the impact on the decisions made by the ARB. The new law dictates that the members of the ARB will be appointed by the CAD board of directors rather than the local administrative district judge. Appointments must be made by majority vote of the CAD board of directors. Further, at least two members of the majority must be elected members of the board, giving these new elected members significant power to influence appointments. 

“This means that just two elected TCAD [Travis Central Appraisal District] board members could stonewall ARB appointments, potentially in an attempt to influence the makeup of the ARB and the outcomes it produces,” said TCAD board of directors candidate Daniel Wang. “Thus the elected TCAD board members have a special responsibility to act fairly and impartially in selecting ARB members who will be efficient and fair.” 

While CAD board members don’t directly control tax rates or school spending, their actions in ensuring accurate, fair, and efficient property appraisals have a substantial impact on the funding available to public schools in Texas. A well-run CAD is essential in providing a stable financial foundation for local school districts.