Fed Up with High Property Taxes? Candidates for New Slots on CAD Board Share Their Thoughts

Canyon Lake resident Debra Hindman, right, is running unopposed for Comal Appraisal District Board, Place 2. She owns and operates Canyon Cove RV Park with husband David. Website image.

Think you’re paying too much in Comal County property taxes?

Thanks to recent legislation passed by the Texas Legislature, voters who show up at the polls or mail in ballots for the May 4 Uniform Election will elect three new members to the Comal County Appraisal District’s (CAD) six-member board.

It’s the first time Texas voters have had any say over who sits on the board of appraisal districts, created by the legislature in 1979.

Senate Bill 2 also establishes that the term of an appraisal district director serving on Dec. 31, 2024, in a county with a population of 75,000 or more, expires on Jan. 1, 2025.

But Comal County Tax Assessor-Collector Kristen Hoyt warns that those elected on Saturday will have limited power. This includes setting CAD’s budget and hiring and firing the chief appraiser.

Board members do not appraise property or review property tax values according to rules posted on the Texas Comptroller’s website.

“Board members cannot influence values,” Hoyt said. “They do see the results of property-value studies performed by the Texas Comptroller. The CAD is its own entity and not part of Comal County. Oversight for the CAD is through the Texas Comptroller.”

Getting a seat at the table is at least a start for property owners, said Canyon Lake resident Debra Hindman, who owns Canyon Cove RV Park on the north side of the lake.

She’s fed up with high property taxes and told MyCanyonLake.com she thinks residents on the board can and will effect change, which is why she’s running for Comal Appraisal District Board, Place 2.

“It’s really exciting that we have any kind of a say, this is such a huge blessing,” she said. “…It’s going to make a difference. We’ve got to shine a light on what’s going on. All these appointed positions take away our power as regular people. We need to have more power over our future, our land, our water resources.”

For over a year, Hindman and two other candidates also running to serve on CAD’s board, Camille Adams and Garrison Maurer, have met weekly at the Sattler VFW to eat hamburgers and help other property owners learn to appeal their appraisal values.

“My mom owns a different RV park at the lake and we have been dealing with challenges and things that have been missing with CAD since 2018,” she said.

The appraisal process can be “devastating” for older residents who are being priced out of their homes by taxes.

“They’re doing this so that people cannot have the power they have now over land. Historically, in this country, land has been what really matters. It’s where the wealth is.”

Hindman said she also would seek local counsel instead of paying CAD’s current attorneys to drive from Austin to New Braunfels on business.

Rob Johnson and Adams square off in the race for Comal Appraisal District Board, Place 1.  Robert Brown and Maurer are running for Place 3. The nonpartisan seats are at-large.

Place 1

In an interview recorded and posted to YouTube by the League of Women Voters of the Comal Area (LWVCA), Johnson said he doesn’t like to use the term “opponent” to describe the race.

“We’re competing volunteers, you know this is not a fun job,” he said.

Adams, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Le Tourneau University-Austin, lives in Canyon Lake’s Horseshoe Falls Estates and works in procurement.

“I do more than buy widgets,” she said in an interview with LWVCA. “I source goods and services for a reasonable price, quantity, timely delivery from a variety of selected, vetted suppliers for large multinational corporations. I am also a taxpayer that is excited to take the step to put words into action and help fix the issues challenging the CAD.”

Adams believes the Computer Aided Mass Appraisal (CAMA) software used by CAD is “one of the main reasons we are seeing incorrect and outrageous over-values in total market values and appraisal values since 2018.

“The CAMA produces inaccurate values and perpetuates errors,” she said. “The CAD has admitted that they depend upon taxpayer protests to correct the software errors. The CAMA should be audited in the field with a stratified random sample to determine its accuracy.”

Adams said CAD should evaluate each property on its own merits and not “consider the wishes of the taxing entities for more money.”

She said the appraisal district is “plagued” by lawsuits that cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and receives tens of thousands of protests that stress employees and waste taxpayers’ time.

“This is due to the number of errors. An equitable solution must be sought for this ongoing problem. Promote continuing education for employees to obtain the tools to properly and fairly apply the Texas Property Tax Code and return to tri-annual appraisals to reduce the burden on CAD employees.”

Johnson, a self-described “Auslander” who married a New Braunfelser 28 years ago, lives on 150 acres. He’s volunteered his time as a New Braunfels Independent School District trustee, served on the board of the Trinity Ground Water Conservation District, worked on the New Braunfels Independent School District Education Foundation, and was on the board of the Sophienburg Museum and Archives.

“People I have served on numerous boards will tell you that I read everything,” he said. “I ask my questions and those of others. I don’t miss meetings. I closely watch expenditures. While serving on public and nonprofit boards I always remembered that the money belongs to the taxpayers and donors. I have maintained my state-required certifications for the Texas Open Meetings and Open Records Acts. In my volunteer and professional life I have experience in interviewing people, which is important since one of our primary duties will be the interviewing and hiring of the people who sit in appraisal protest hearings.”

Johnson said CAD members are prohibited from participating in the appraisal review/protest process, but they will select members of the appraisal review board (ARB) in 2025.

“I would help recruit and hire the very best people to the ARB, the source of the three people who sit in each protest hearing and make decisions on taxpayer protests. I’ve been in protest hearings with attentive and fair people who listened to my protest evidence. Unfortunately, I’ve also been to hearings where the ARB members were aggressive, rude and seemingly unfair. No Comal County taxpayer should ever have to go through an experience like that.”

CAD board members must do everything they can to help taxpayers through the “often confusing” protest process.

“Many taxpayers struggle with online filings and are forced to use the filing process using hard-copy filings,” Johnson said. “We must make this process as easy as possible for taxpayers with technical skill or available technology limitations.”

Place 3

New Braunfels native Robert Brown told the LWVCA his children are the “big reason” he’s running to serve on CAD’s board.

“I fully realize the importance of these board positions, their effect on our community and just want to do what I can to make a positive impact locally.”

Brown’s 17-year-old company, AMC TXCI, provides construction services in a wide variety of applications and sectors throughout Texas.

Like many who live in Comal County, he believes rapid growth has caused real estate values and associated taxes to soear.

“Most  people care how every penny of our tax dollars are spent because it represents their personal sweat equity,” he said. “But what also matters, I argue, maybe more is how the policies behind our taxes are made and the reasoning for them, that’s the angle I want to be a part of.”

Brown’s running against Maurer, a Smithson Valley High School graduate who owns a towing company and works on a family cattle ranch in Smithson Valley.

Maurer’s family sold land to Comal ISD to build the high school.

“My background of being a small business owner, rancher, actively engaging and participating with my neighbors through civic and nonprofit organizations has helped me gain the experience by speaking with our community members and discussing the importance of having elected representation at the appraisal district,” he said.

If elected, Maurer wants to increase transparency between CAD and taxpayers, listen to citizens’ concerns, and work hard to ensure the public is treated fairly at protest hearings.

“Appraisal review boards have drawn endless scrutiny, especially as property values rose dramatically in the last three years with changes to the housing market,” he said. “I believe the change is good and will offer taxpayers more say in their government.”

Last year, Maurrer ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Comal ISD Trustee Russell Garner in the race for Single-Member District (SMD) 4.

About Property Taxes

Local governments use property taxes to provide services such as schools, roads, police, fire and other services taxpayers expect, Hoyt said.

“Property taxes start with value, but also use the tax rate from each taxing unit to result in ‘property taxes,'” she said. “If people want to have a say in their property taxes they can 1. monitor their value from the CAD and protest each year and, 2. participate in their local taxing unit’s budget and tax rate process.”

Taxing units include Comal County, school districts, cities, emergency services districts and other entities.

Hoyt said residents and business owners have until May 15 to protest this year’s property taxes.

CAD’s taxpayer liaison is Kurt Andersen Vie, who was selected by the board and works with CAD, the CAD board and the ARB to assist taxpayers with the protest process.

Comal County’s 2023 total tax rate is $0.413 per $100 of valuation. The property tax rate is broken into two components: $0.208 for debt service payments and $0.205 for operations and maintenance allocated to the general fund.

The county partners with Hoyt’s office to collect ad valorem property taxes.

The county’s property tax database is updated regularly during August and September as local elected officials propose and adopt the property tax rates that determine how much residents pay in property taxes using last year’s value and new value.

To view a breakdown of local property taxes, find information concerning estimated taxes, the taxing units to which your taxes are distributed, the dates and locations of any public hearings where locally elected officials will determine tax rates, and read about any other important property tax information, click here.

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