A North Texas lawmaker has proposed legislation to abolish the troubled Tarrant Appraisal District before the end of the year and turn its duties over to the state comptroller.
The appraisal district is the agency responsible for setting property values used by local governments to calculate property tax bills.
State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) filed House Bill 5218 on Friday, amid a brewing battle over replacing the Tarrant Appraisal District’s board chairman, Kathryn Wilemon. The board is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss Wilemon’s replacement—and possibly the chief appraiser’s, as well.
Two taxing entities served by TAD, the City of Keller and Tarrant County, already voted to recall Wilemon.
Taxpayers have complained about the lack of accountability, transparency, and trust within the agency, while local taxing entities lament Wilemon’s weak leadership as chair of the appraisal district’s board of directors.
“There is no shortage of people unhappy with the goings on at the Tarrant Appraisal District,” Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare said Monday. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it has registered. With the recalls by Tarrant County and Keller, plus the bill filed by Charlie Geren to abolish TAD by Sept. 1, it sure ought to now.”
Geren’s bill says an appraisal district for an “affected county” would be abolished on September 1, 2023, and the Texas comptroller “shall perform the duties of an appraisal district, a district board of directors, a chief appraiser, and an appraisal office assigned to those entities and offices” by the tax code.
Using a legislative tactic known as “bracketing,” HB 5218 defines an “affected county” in a way that specifically targets Tarrant County.
Keller Mayor Armin Mizani, whose city initiated the recall of Wilemon, told Texas Scorecard Monday he hadn’t yet seen Geren’s bill but believes its intention is to “initiate a conversation about reforming appraisal districts and increasing accountability.”
In the battle over replacing Wilemon, Mizani and O’Hare are committed to following Texas Tax Code rules for recalling a board member and say they will pursue legal action if Chief Appraiser Jeff Law fails to proceed with the recall.
“Tarrant County taxpayers deserve transparency,” O’Hare said Friday. “We will use the authority of this office to see to it they get it.
First-term TAD board member Rich DeOtte agrees that the recall process should play out.
DeOtte has been a vocal proponent for greater transparency and accountability within the agency, and he was the lone “no” vote against declaring Wilemon’s seat vacant after she resigned once Keller initiated the recall.
A measure proposed by State Rep. Nate Schatzline (R–Fort Worth) would avoid future conflicts like the battle brewing over Wilemon’s replacement.
House Bill 4060 adds appraisal district board members who have resigned or been recalled to the list of people ineligible to serve on future boards.
“The public trust in TAD must be restored,” said O’Hare.
The Tarrant Appraisal District board of directors has called a meeting for Friday, March 17, at 1:00 p.m. to discuss and possibly take further action on Wilemon’s recall and resignation, as well as the “appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of the chief appraiser.”