Appraisal District (copy)

The board of the McLennan County Appraisal District has told Chief Appraiser Andrew Hahn that it will not renew or extend his contract and will seek a new district head.

The McLennan County Appraisal District board has told longtime Chief Appraiser Andrew Hahn it will not renew his contract and is expected to take further action at its Sept. 12 meeting.

“The board has elected to not renew or extend his contract past Dec. 31,” said board Chairman John Kinnaird, a Waco city councilman, on Thursday. “Currently, he’s still under contract and is still the chief appraiser.”

Hahn, who has headed the district for 11 years, was not at work Thursday by his own volition, Kinnaird said. He did not respond to efforts to contact him for comment Thursday.

Kinnaird said it is unlikely Hahn would stay for the remainder of his contracted time, but no official agreement will be approved before the meeting. The board meets at 9 a.m. next Thursday at the appraisal district headquarters, 315 S. 26th St.

Kinnaird did not cite specific reasons for the decision.

“Sometimes it just seems like change is for the best,” Kinnaird said. “The board feels that with where we’re moving as a community, that a change in chief appraisers has been warranted.”

Kinnaird said the chief appraiser’s contract renewal is usually approved each spring for the following year, and the board last renewed Hahn’s contract in spring 2018.

Though many taxpayers have voiced discontent with the appraisal district in recent years for rapidly growing property values, Kinnaird said that was not a factor in the board’s decision. The appraisal board, appointed by local governments, has the task of choosing a chief appraiser and approving an annual budget, which is $4.34 million this year. But it does not oversee the decisions by the district’s professional appraisers or get involved in the protest process, which is handled by an independent appraisal review board.

The Texas Comptroller does a “ratio study” of each appraisal district’s values each year, comparing them to actual sale prices, and state officials found the McLennan County Appraisal District’s compliance rate to be 99% for 2018.

Kinnaird said he does not fault the staff for sharp increases in valuations, or for legal expenses the district has incurred in defending its values in court.

County Tax Assessor-Collector Randy Riggs, a nonvoting member of the board, was appraisal board chairman when Hahn was hired.

“Drew is a very competent chief appraiser and we appreciate the contributions he has made to the district,” Riggs said.

Hahn has been chief appraiser in McLennan County since Jan. 1, 2008, and since then he has seen his salary increase from $90,000 to $129,225. He also receives a $2,575 car allowance and $576 in longevity pay, as well as benefits.

He previously was chief appraiser for 13 years in Calhoun County between Galveston and Corpus Christi.

At the time he took the McLennan County job, the district office was in turmoil, with personal squabbles and disagreements about where the district should locate its headquarters. Former Chief Appraiser Robert Waldrop had left the previous summer, leaving as interim chief Tax Assessor-Collector A.F. “Buddy” Skeen, who repeatedly clashed with the board. Skeen later pleaded guilty to five felony counts of misuse of county property and vehicles.

A year after Hahn took office, the appraisal district decided to break its lease on its downtown headquarters at 600 Columbus Avenue and buy the former Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. building on South 26th Street for $1.3 million.

The owner of the downtown building sued for breach of contract and won a $467,000 court judgment that was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court.

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