We’re going to be electing what now?

I had no idea about this. It sure wasn’t covered in the runup to this past election.

In a state known for too many elections, there’s another one coming to Texas’ 50 largest counties.

This May, voters in those most populous counties will be asked to elect three members of their respective appraisal district boards. When Texas voters approved constitutional amendments to lower property taxes this year they also approved new political positions within their appraisal districts that are now up for election in May.

Appraisal districts determine annual property valuations based on market value, which helps local taxing entities calculate how much tax revenue they can receive in a given year, and set their tax rates and budgets. Since 1980, these districts have included a property tax appraiser and an appointed board.

Last November, voters approved the ballot measure that set a temporary maximum on appraised property values and increased the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000. But they may not have read further. Included in the ballot language was a major tweak to how appraisal district board members – usually appointed by local elected officials – are chosen.

Beginning in May, there will be four-year terms for members of the boards for appraisal districts with populations over 75,000 and each will have eight members. Three of those will be elected. The change has drawn some concern and criticism from county leaders now saddled with a brand new election. And many counties are still working out which current members will serve as an appointed official and which will be forced to run for an elected spot.

So why do this? According to state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican and the author of Senate Bill 2 that became Proposition 4 on the November ballot, Texas lawmakers were overrun with questions regarding taxpayer input into the county appraisal district governance.

“Now when you look historically over this, there’s never really been elected representation ever on the appraisal district board of directors,” he said.

Whether a board is elected or appointed, board members don’t make decisions regarding property values, which is the issue voters primarily complain about according to Bettencourt. The board does decide what members are appointed to the appraisal review board, which is not required to lower property values but has the option to.


But the change has drawn concern from some chief appraisers, who worry this will either politicize the system or create problems convincing anyone to fill the seat.

“Who wants to get signage and go knock on doors for a position that does not pay a dime?” asked Angelina County Chief Appraiser Tim Chambers. “You get no benefit whatsoever for being on my board – a cup of coffee or a bottle of water is about all you get.”

In Bexar County, Chief Appraiser Rogelio Sandoval is waiting to see what this will mean for his community. He didn’t express an opinion on the change, but said it is his job to uphold the law regardless of what it is – which is what he plans to do.

There’s also the added scrutiny board members typically face, as residents protesting their property evaluations have historically evaluated properties owned by board members as well, he said.

Chambers wanted to know exactly what the board of directors was expected to campaign on, what kind of promises they could make. Board members are not permitted to discuss property valuations outside of public meetings and cannot tell the chief appraiser to change property values.


Chambers and [Mike Brower, chief appraiser for Bowie County] worry creating elected positions will politicize a formerly apolitical system. Brower doesn’t understand why the positions need to be elected.

“Essentially, the board can hire and fire the chief appraiser and find us a place to office. They can enter into contracts over $5,000, they approve a budget and they appoint (the appraisal review board),” Brower said. “I just told you everything my board of directors is allowed by law to do and not a thing that I just told you has anything to do with property value and it has nothing to do with taxes.”

Campaigners seeking board positions cannot promise to lower property values, or to make truly substantive changes to how the system operates during the election.

Yeah, I have no idea what this is going to look like. The current list of HCAD Board members includes a bunch of people whose appointed terms ended this past December 31; in theory, either they have been reappointed by now or someone new has taken their place. At least three of them (Kathy Blueford-Daniels, Martina Lemond Dixon, and Ann Harris Bennett) are elected officials, which means they could not run for one of the new elected positions on the Board. (HCAD now stands for Harris Central Appraisal District by the way, another thing I learned in writing this post.) But I suppose they could continue to be appointed members? (Ann Harris Bennett will not be, at least once her term as Tax Assessor ends.) I have no idea.

Here’s a list of Texas counties, which you can sort by population size. Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, and Liberty Counties will all have to go through this. Waller County, with a population of 61K and rapidly growing, will likely join the fun in a few years, while Chambers (51K) may be a decade or more away. Walker County, home of Huntsville, is the smallest county to meet the 75K threshold, though Wise County in North Texas was just below it and may have to consult a demographer and/or lawyer to see if they are in scope. This is going to be more than a little chaotic.

One last thing to note is that this will be a May election, at least this time; perhaps in the future we will do these in November. I’ll have to read SB2 more closely. We generally don’t have much election activity in Harris County in May – some smaller cities and some school boards do May elections, though those are usually in the odd-numbered years. Outside of the HISD recapture re-do referendum in 2017, we pretty much never have elections on the uniform May date. We do have party primary runoffs in May, but those are on a different date. See how much fun this is already?

Anyway. I will keep an eye on this. In the meantime, some more coverage of the fact that we will even be having this election in less than four months would be nice. The Fort Worth Report, which provides an estimate of $300K to hold that county’s election for these posts, has more.

UPDATE: Finally looked through this very long bill and near the bottom there’s this:

SECTION 5.13. (a) Appraisal district directors shall be elected to the elective positions as provided by Section 6.0301, Tax Code, as added by this article, beginning with the election conducted on the uniform election date in May 2024. The directors then elected take office on July 1, 2024, and serve a term that expires on December 31, 2026.

(b) Following the election of the initial elected directors of an appraisal district as provided by Subsection (a) of this section, directors shall be elected as provided by Section 6.0301, Tax Code, as added by this article, beginning with the general election conducted in November 2026. Directors then elected take office January 1, 2027.

(c) At the first meeting of the board of directors of an appraisal district described by Section 6.0301, Tax Code, as added by this article, that follows the November 2026 general election of directors under that section, the three elected directors shall draw lots to determine which director shall serve a term of two years and which two directors shall serve a term of four years. Thereafter, all elected directors serve four-year terms.

OK, so at least this May election is a one time deal. This is still very weird.

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5 Responses to We’re going to be electing what now?

  1. Joel says:

    Is there also a special filing deadline for this election?

  2. Joel, I assume as this will be on the uniform election date for May that it will follow the same calendar:


    Filing period runs from January 18 (which is, um, this Thursday) through February 17. In other words, we’ll have our candidates for these races before we know it.

  3. Joel says:

    thanks. this might be a chance for someone to run for something, if no one knows about it.

  4. Pingback: Apparently that challenge to the 2023 Constitutional amendment elections just went away | Off the Kuff

  5. Doris L Murdock says:

    Possibly the only incentive for someone to run for these positions would be to establish name recognition so that they could run for more influential offices. Having had both good and bad results with HCAD protests, I’ll be watching this closely, as well. And, by “bad”, I mean reviewers who denied my documented proofs of unequal value. HCAD, in my opinion and experience, is a poorly trained, understaffed entity.

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