Texas voters to elect members of appraisal district boards for the first time

As early voting gets underway, voters are able to weigh in on who controls property appraisals for the first time.

Voters will be asked to elect three members of their appraisal district boards in the state's 50 largest counties, which include most of North Texas.

It comes as Texans are once again dealing with property appraisal sticker shock.

"I really haven't done anything to my property, to the house or the land itself, but yet they've continued to increase for tax purposes," said Craig Cockle, who lives in Oak Cliff.

It happens almost every year, soaring property appraisals that, in turn, lead to higher property tax bills.

"The increase is just astonishing," said Plano homeowner Traci Moilanen.

Texas lawmakers have been getting an earful from constituents who feel similarly to Barry Huebner.

"Can't afford to leave, can’t afford to stay," Huebner said.

Now, homeowners will have a say about who is on the board of their property appraisal district, the board responsible for determining accurate property values.

"People should know that this was something that they authorized previously by voting for the property tax reduction package that the legislature put through," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at SMU.

While most voters focused on the increase to the Homestead Exemption, that measure last November also created the elected appraisal board positions.

"The pros would be that it creates a greater level of citizen involvement, that it gives ordinary taxpayers, ordinary voters, more of a direct say in how property taxes are apportioned, appraised," said Wilson.


He says it also brings politics into the process.

"This is in part by design, because, of course, if members of the appraisal boards are elected, their incentive is to please taxpayers by keeping appraisals low," said Wilson. "Where that could create issues is that those downward pressures on appraisals could create revenue crunches for some of these taxing jurisdictions. So we're going to have to see how those dynamics play out over time."

[REPORTER: "Do you think that voters going to the polls are going to be well-educated on who's running for these positions?"]

"I think the answer to that is absolutely not. If we're realistic about the way elections work. People know little enough about local elections to begin with, and these are new positions," said Wilson.

Because these are technically non-partisan positions, there will be no party designation by names for voters to go by.

"So it really then comes down more to looking at qualifications, background expertise that might be relevant for doing this job," said Wilson.

The boards will continue to have five appointed members in addition to the elected ones.

The elected representatives will have four-year terms.