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Appraisal district slashes building studies charge

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After making plans for a budget adjustment last month, the board for the Central Appraisal District of Bandera County voted last week to amend its current budget and reduce a controversial allocation laying the groundwork for new or renovated appraisal district offices by $160,000.

Angie Massey, the operations coordinator for the appraisal district, said the board of directors voted unanimously on Friday, Oct 25, to cut the allocation for startup funds to study whether to relocate or remodel its offices from $185,000 to $25,000.

The board, after receiving criticism from Bandera County commissioners and trustees with the Medina Independent School District, indicated last month that it would make the modification but delayed formal action until it could notify the taxing entities it served that the change was under consideration.

Critics said the initial expenditure was excessive and would be too high for some of the taxing entities in Bandera County that pay for the appraisal district’s budget to fund. Bandera County Commissioner Jody Rutherford said the large expense suggested appraisal district management was “out of control.”

That criticism was all but withdrawn this week when commissioners and other agencies heard about the board’s cutback.

Bandera County Judge Richard Evans called the revised allocation “reasonable” and something that should cover what the appraisal district needs to do as it looks into how to move forward with building improvements.

Medina Independent School District Superintendent Kevin Newsom called the modification “significant help for us” and something that will ease the strain on the school district’s budget.

“We’re extremely pleased with their decision,” said Newsom. “I think it says a lot about them being sensitive to everybody’s needs.”

When the 2020 appraisal district budget went before commissioners’ court for review in August, Medina ISD officials said the increase for building studies was too high and that the amount charged to Medina ISD would be more than it could afford in a year when a new, state education funding formula for public schools was leaving the district in a deep financial hole.

Newsom said under the initial expenditure plan adopted by the appraisal district, the fee to MISD as its share of the district’s budget would have increased by $50,000. Under the revised budget, the increase to the school district should be less than $10,000, the superintendent said.

The nine taxing entities that the appraisal district works for pay a proportionate share of the district’s budget as determined by the size of their tax levies.

Rutherford, who was the only commissioner to vote against accepting the appraisal district’s initial budget, said this week that the budget modification was closer to what the entities that pay the appraisal district’s budget can afford.

He hopes, however, that the appraisal district will get with county officials to work out a more reasoned plan about how to decide what to do about the district’s office needs.

The appraisal district’s Chief Appraiser Wendy M. Grams said the board was still in the preliminary stages of deciding what path to take in upgrading its offices.

She confirmed, however, that something needed to be done because the current office at 1206 Main St. in Bandera has inadequate space for staff and parking and has structural issues.