A grassroots-led campaign, combined with the hard work of candidates, has brought more taxpayer representation to a North Texas Appraisal Board with the successful election of three newcomers, including 2019 Conservative Leader Award winner Rich DeOtte.

Many Tarrant County taxpayers were unaware that from late October to mid-December of this year, an election was occurring that would directly affect the taxable value of their homes or apartments. Local realtor and taxpayer defender Chandler Crouch sought to raise public awareness with a commentary explaining the election and the problems he found with the process—namely that only one school district is highly active in nominating candidates and Tarrant County Commissioners typically plays kingmaker. Chandler went on to tell local taxpayers what they could do about it to make sure their interests are represented.

The election was for all five seats for the board of the Tarrant Appraisal District. The process has two phases.

Phase one is the nomination, where local taxing entities (such as cities, school districts, and the county) are invited to nominate a maximum of five candidates each for the board. If an entity nominates a candidate, he or she will appear on the ballot to be voted on by the taxing entities.

Phase two is the election process, where TAD sends ballots to each taxing entity, who can submit their votes to the appraisal district anytime between October 31 and December 15.

Chandler further empowered Tarrant taxpayers by providing recorded interviews with some of the board candidates, namely Gary Losada, Michael Glaspie, and Rich DeOtte, winner of the 2019 Empower Texans’ Conservative Leader Award. The rest either refused or were unavailable.

DeOtte made clear there is a problem when he appeared before the Tarrant County Commissioners on December 10.

“I’ve heard from local elected leaders from all over the state, when I’ve talked to them, that their appraisal systems are broken,” he said. “And in Tarrant County, it’s been pretty focused.”

Crouch continued empowering taxpayers, going so far as providing the dates of when each taxing entity would be voting, and their emails.

The response was immense, with reports the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court was “buried in email[s].”

Thanks to the hard work of the grassroots and the candidates themselves, three newcomers were elected to the board. Losada was elected with 839 votes, Kathryn Wilemon with 749 votes, and DeOtte with 776 votes.

Wilemon had declined to be interviewed by Crouch.

Only two incumbents were re-elected: John Molyneaux with 715 votes, and Mike O’Donnell with 732 votes.

Crouch, for his part, refused to take any of the credit for this result.

“The effort the candidates put out deserve most of the glory,” he told Texas Scorecard.  “It was very refreshing to see how passionate a handful of elected officials were to make sure the right thing was done. However, it was very frustrating to see how many elected officials were willing to ignore the voice of the people for some unknown reason. That was surprising.”

It is hoped this election will result in repairing these systems, bringing better accountability of TAD to the taxpayers, with greater transparency of the process of setting the taxable value of taxpayer’s residences.

It’s important to remember that the taxing entities—not the appraisal district—set the tax rates which decide the bottom line of property taxpayer’s bills. However, transparency and accountability should absolutely be demanded of TAD.

The TAD Board will have its first 2020 meeting January 10 at 9 am.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.