Commentary

'Income estimates' already in MCAD plans

GUEST VIEWPOINT
By BECKY BOOKER MAREK Kountry Inn Motel

Over the past week I've heard from many of my fellow Milam County residents. I want to thank you all for your support of my comments, and also for sharing stories of your dealings with Milam County Appraisal District.

Your stories have quite a range, from slightly irritated to feeling that you've been singled out. It has been comforting for my family to know that we are not the only ones who think that it might be time for a review of practices and changes at MCAD, and it's strengthened my resolve to fight against the district's use of the "income method" for appraising hotels and motels in Milam County.

And I still stand firm in my convictions: It's only an Income Method if and when the district uses the method spelled out in Chapter 23 of the Property Tax Code.

Two things, though really stand out in all of your comments: frustration and fear of retaliation. In sharing my family's frustrations, it seems we've opened a countywide conversation and review of MCAD, and many of you think it's long overdue. Many of you have said that you've wanted to complain about poor treatment from the office, but have been afraid of an increased valuation in the year following your protest.

And some of you have shared stories about having to remind the office repeatedly about senior citizen or disability status.

And most surprising of all, even elected officials have commented on their difficulties with MCAD. The sole nay-sayer is a member of the MCAD board of directors.

I've made several information gathering trips back to MCAD this week because just about all of the information used by the district is available to anyone as public information.

One bit of irony, though, is that renditions, or the inventory lists that businesses used to declare their personal property, are not public information. And gross sales figures are also considered private information. Hotel-motel receipts, however, are public information and that one single difference has allowed MCAD to make a money-grab the past two years.

Eyeing incomes

But other retailers could also be in line for the income method of property tax valuation, including apartment complexes, office buildings, restaurants and any business that "typically sells on net operating income or income producing capabilities." That information is taken directly from the district's bienniel reappraisal plan.

MCAD has indicated that these other businesses could be subject to the income method. The plan also instructs the chief appraiser to use various methods to estimate income if actual income information is unavailable to the district.

Stop here and re-read that last sentence.

Yes, your "income" could be "estimated" based on whatever methods the chief appraiser might want to use to calculate the value of your business. And I'll bet you thought that taxes were based on something tangible!

The appraisal process is complicated. And to make matters worse, there seems to be no true help from the state government.

I've spoken with a representative from Dan Gattis' office who has expressed interest in the dealings of MCAD, but legislators only make the law, they aren't responsible for enforcing the law. That means that appraisal districts will only be called into accountability if taxpayers seek relief through the courts. That means lawyers, time and money for the taxpayer.

Is it any wonder t hat t he answer from MCAD seems to be, "So sue me?"

We won't get accountability from MCAD and Chief Appraiser Pat Moraw until we talk to MCAD board members and demand it. The only ones who can fix whatever problems are in Milam County are Milam County residents. MCAD board members are appointed by the taxing entities to make sure that the business of the office is done appropriately, and the chief appraiser is directly responsible to and works at the discretion of that ver y same board of directors.

We can look to Austin and wait for them to put limits on annual appraisal valuations, but why wait for who knows how long when we could get involved right now?

Have you had a problem with MCAD? Call the board members and tell them your story.

As for other businesses in Milam County, beware: MCAD could be estimating your receipts for the 2010 tax year. Don't wait until you get a valuation based on your estimated income. Talk to your board of directors now, today, this week, and let them know how you feel on the issue.

Neighbors, we can wait around for tax law to change and someone from Austin to show up, or we can roll up our sleeves, get on the phone and get some results the old-fashioned way with direct participation in the system.
Milam County Appraisal Review
Board Members
• Bentley Hause 254-697-3022
• Robert Paulsen 254-793-2304
• Don Thompson 512-446-4093
MCAD Board of Directors
• James Anderle 254-697-4886
• Emory Crump 512-446-6526
• Dee Ellis 512-446-5614
• Bill McCutcheon 512-697-3028
• Dave Ogee 512-898-5381


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