McLennan County Appraisal District board members have been somewhat hesitant to explain not renewing the contract of longtime MCAD Chief Appraiser Andrew Hahn. In formalizing their decision Thursday, board chairman John Kinnard paid tribute to Hahn’s reorganization of MCAD staff and implementation of technology to provide for greater efficiencies, then repeated earlier comments to the Trib that the board “feels that with where we’re moving as a community, a change in chief appraisers has been warranted.”
Given these remarks and the silence of other board members (and Hahn), some speculation is in order. Kinnaird’s remarks referring to the Waco community would seem to acknowledge the recent boom in business and residential ventures exceeding all projections. Along with this, we hear more outcry over rising property values, which can obviously mean higher tax bills if taxing entities — the appraisal district is not a taxing entity — decline to adjust their individual tax rates.
Add the fact some taxpayers are flat ill-informed and quick to vilify — along with reckless employment of social media to spread ignorance and hatred — and one can reasonably speculate that the board seeks someone just as savvy on complicated tax law as Hahn but possibly more capable in community outreach at this juncture. We remember Kinnaird’s own bracing civic club address explaining property-tax appraisals a few years ago. We also recall the epiphanies on the faces of his fellow taxpaying citizens.
We add this: When it comes to anything to do with tax law and appraisals, we’re far more likely to believe Andrew Hahn than, say, Dan Patrick or Greg Abbott. And given that he and his staff are fellow taxpayers and neighbors, one should be able to sympathize to some degree with Hahn. The job he has occupied for 11 years is not only stressful but misunderstood and unappreciated.
For all the torrid criticism of MCAD, it’s important to remember two things: First, the local appraisal district’s valuations must hit a range determined by the state comptroller in Austin, also governed by law. If an appraisal district doesn’t ordinarily get close to market value, consequences loom. The Texas Comptroller regularly performs a “ratio study” of each appraisal district’s values, comparing them to actual sale prices. Surprise: State officials found the McLennan County Appraisal District compliance rate was 99% in 2018.
Which brings us to the second point: While there’s a prescribed process for those who believe their appraisals are excessive — up to and including litigation — certain complaints about the process should be lodged with legislators, the lieutenant governor and the governor. In June Gov. Abbott signed Republican legislation that supposedly will retard property-tax increases. While we wait to see if this makes any difference, let’s hope the next chief appraiser demonstrates a strong sense of community outreach and district responsiveness as he or she pursues the job with propriety, equity and fairness. It might also help if all of us got a little better informed.