Appraisal district directors adopt budget with raises for staffers

PRESIDIO – Presidio County Appraisal District directors approved a 2019 budget for the district that includes small raises for its five employees and still coming under the 2018 budget by about $13,000.

Meeting last week at the courthouse annex in Presidio, the PCAD board adopted a $498,964 budget, compared with the current amended budget of $511,625.

This year’s adopted budget totaled $475,054 but the district’s server and computer system were hacked earlier this year, prompting an unbudgeted expense in getting the system cleaned and protected from future hacks.

Included in the fiscal plan for next year is a five percent raise for the appraisal trainee office clerk and three percent raises for the chief appraiser and three staffers.

Chief Appraiser Cynthia Ramirez had proposed three percent hikes for her staff but not her, and in discussing the work of her staff noted that appraisal trainee office clerk Samantha Salgado this year had earned her Level II certificate, prompting directors to suggest a five percent raise for Ms. Salgado and include Ramirez in the three percent increase.

Ramirez will make $51,916 and Salgado will earn $28,638. The office clerk bookkeeper will make $30,388; the data processor $30,367; and the Presidio-based office clerk $30,367.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Appraisal District Director’s Manual calls for professional development of a staff, and directors last year implemented an incentive bonus program for staffers who attain their required certifications, so Salgado also earned a small bonus this year and plans to sit for her Level III certification next.

The district is responsible for appraising property in the county and sharing that information with the county, the cities of Presidio and Marfa, the Marfa and Presidio school districts and the Presidio County portion of the Big Bend Regional Hospital District so those political subdivisions may levy property taxes. This district is funded by those taxing entities proportionally to each district’s tax levy.

In other business, the city of Presidio will be looking for another PCAD director, as its appointee, city administrator Jose Portillo, is ineligible to serve. Ramirez noted that employees of a taxing entity are prohibited from serving as a director, while elected officials, even paid, aren’t. Current directors are Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, Presidio school board member Alfred Muñiz, Presidio County Commissioner Eloy Aranda, Genevieve Bassham representing the city of Marfa, Marfa City Commissioner Buck Johnston representing Marfa ISD – and yes, Johnson can perform both duties, according to Ramirez – and Robert Halpern representing Marfa ISD. Presidio County Tax Assessor-Collector Natalia Williams is a non-voting board member.

It is hoped that the Presidio City Council appoints a resident of the Presidio community and not a city council member to broaden the participation in public service.

In her chief appraiser’s report, Ramirez told directors that the recently completed appraisal protest hearings included 74 cases in the city of Presidio on one day, while the Appraisal Review Board heard 281 protests in Marfa from June 28 to July 2. Marfa values continue to rise, while Presidio values declined a bit this year.

“It was overwhelming, stressful, but we did it,” the chief appraiser said of the marathon Marfa protests. Directors also:

* approved for staff to attend the Harris Government Users Conference in Plano in December;

* renewed its contract with appraisal consultant Richard Petree and his Western Valuation Consultants of San Angelo, splitting travel fees with Brewster County now that Petree consults that appraisal district as well on the same trip;

* voted to stay with Harris for IT services as Harris stepped in to fix the district’s hacked system;

* and voted to ask the taxing entities to allow the district to retain about $21,000 in surplus funds from 2017, to be earmarked for IT and legal expenses.

It was decided that the next PCAD meeting will be at 10am on Friday, September 7 at the PCAD office on Texas Street in downtown Marfa, where the public is cordially invited to attend.

Reporter/editor/publisher Robert Halpern is a PCAD director.