UCAD chief fields city complaints

Mayor, council take issue with compliance requirement

Kimberly Rubio

Assistant editor

“It seems like the school district is driving the bus and UCAD is following the district,” Uvalde City Councilman Chip King said Tuesday after hearing a presentation by Uvalde County Appraisal District chief appraiser Robert Valdez.

Valdez attended the Uvalde City Council meeting to talk about the 2018 appraisal program.

King’s comment came as city councilmen and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said they felt as if UCAD was succumbing to pressures by the school district to raise property taxes.

“We have to be within 95 percent of market value,” Valdez said, noting that in 2017 Uvalde was 20 percent below the state, resulting in loss of funds for the school district.

“They need to work within their budget,” King said of Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.

“They are losing $1.2 million in funds because our kids are going to Knippa [schools],” McLaughlin said.

“What you do is complicated. What you do is important, but I hope that the people that are setting values aren’t feeling pressured into setting those values,” said Councilman Rogelio Muñoz. “Set the values at what they are worth, but don’t increase them to satisfy someone else.”

“Our residents are drowning,” McLaughlin said. “I’m worried.”

Speaking Wednesday morning, Valdez said UCAD is responsible for establishing appraisal at fair market value and is not pressured to increase values by any entities served.

“UCAD has been rated out of compliance the last four to five years in the state’s property value study,” Valdez said. “It is our job to be at fair market value annually. We are trying our best to comply with market value.”

Valdez said at present, UCAD is at 96 percent of market within the city limits.

Valdez previously gave the same presentation to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and Uvalde County Commissioners.

Valdez said 18,459 appraisal notices were mailed out on May 25. Of those notices, 16,861 were for real property; 585, mobile homes; and 1,013, personal property. Market and appraised value changes were made to 13,414 properties.

As of May, market value in Uvalde County totaled $4,278,287,366 while taxable value was set at $1,872,206,164. Last year, market value totaled $4,153,076,701, while taxable value was set at $1,757,504,042.

Between Jan. 1, 2017, and April 30, 2018, 154 single-family residential sales occurred within UCISD. Forty-six vacant acreage sales took place during that same time period.

For that same time period, Sabinal residential sales totaled 15, while vacant acreage totaled 60; Knippa ISD, 1, 4; Leakey ISD, 3, 0; Nueces Canyon ISD, 2, 9, and Utopia, 1, 5.

Citizen’s input

During the citizen’s input portion of the meeting, Uvalde resident Mark Huffstutler addressed council regarding sales tax and property tax.

“Twenty-five years or so ago, the city approved a .50 cent sales tax for economic development. The Uvalde Memorial Hospital asked to be the beneficiary of that.”

Huffstutler said the hospital’s request came at a time when the institution was struggling, a situation he said is no longer the case.

“It would be nice to recall that tax and use it for economic development,” Huffstutler said.

Councilman Rogelio Muñoz directed staff to look into the issue and bring findings to the next city meeting.

Huffstutler also addressed issues with property taxes.

“I am concerned about the direction we are headed and the aggressive tactics of UCAD. It causes a burden on taxpayers,” he said.

Other businesses

Council also heard a presentation by David Quinn with Public Power Pool, a non-profit political subdivision corporation, created by governments in Texas and designed to save taxpayer money by aggregating power usage to procure the best power contracts at the lowest cost.

Quinn said Public Power Pool has 96 members, including the city of Uvalde, and 5,054 accounts. Member savings since 2002 total $111.5 million. Savings for the city of Uvalde, since they joined in 2013, total $553,278.

A closed session was also held to discuss ongoing litigation against the Edward Aquifer Authority, but no action was taken when council reconvened.

krubio@ulnnow.com, 830-278-3335

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