Hey look, it’s a story about the HCAD elections

About damn time.

A question you are unlikely to hear at any bar, diner or dinner table over the next month: Who are you voting for the county appraisal district board?

Few area residents are aware of the election, even though many of them voted to approve it only a few months ago.

In Harris County, the first-time election, scheduled May 4, has drawn 13 candidates seeking three seats on the nine-member Harris County Appraisal District board.

Voters will be asked to select governing members of the agency that determines annual property values used by local taxing entities to set their property tax rates and budgets. Appraisal district boards have the ability to hire and fire the county’s chief appraiser, the person in charge of carrying out property appraisals.

Last November’s state Proposition 4 set a temporary maximum on appraised property values and increased the homestead exemption, a tax break homeowners can place on their primary residence, from $40,000 to $100,000. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by 83 percent of voters.

Along with changes to the tax code, the final line of the proposition created four-year terms for three appraisal board positions in the 50 Texas counties with a population larger than 75,000. Previously, all nine members were appointed by local taxing entities represented by the district.

The changes to appraisal boards in the Houston region also apply to Liberty, Montgomery, Galveston, Brazoria and Fort Bend counties.


Terms for the elected board members will begin July 1 and last until July 31, 2026.

Election day will be held on a Saturday, coinciding only with the Texas Senate District 15 special election to fill the final eight months of Mayor John Whitmire’s vacated term.

The elections are being held quickly after November’s constitutional amendment so board members are in place before property tax season begins in the fall, [Sen. Paul] Bettencourt said. The May election day also serves to ensure the positions are nonpartisan and do not require a primary, further removing the process from political back-and-forth, the senator said.

Going forward, appraisal district board elections will be held in November.


The races are being held at significant cost to the appraisal district.

The May election is being administered by the Harris County Clerk’s office, but state law requires the appraisal district to cover the $4.1 million cost estimated by county officials. No estimate was available for a potential July runoff, according to the clerk’s office.

Election costs on crowded November ballots generally are spread among the political entities holding races, according to the clerk’s office.

State Rep. Mano DeAyala, R-Houston, argued the springtime election offers voters the opportunity to better familiarize themselves with the positions and candidates without other races competing for their attention.

“It’s a subject matter every voter should want to be informed about because it affects a vast majority … directly,” DeAyala said. “I think the voters are going to get engaged. I think the voters are going to get informed.”

The novelty and low attention on the elections has some suspicious of further meddling in Harris County’s affairs by the Texas Legislature.

“Everybody is kind of scratching their heads at this,” said Jay Malone, political director for the Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation. “Ultimately, the way we have to think about this is in the broader context of the attacks by the legislature on local control.”

Low voter turnout is likely, but the timing is necessary to allow new board members to get to work, state Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, wrote in a statement.

“It enhances the democratic nature of the appraisal process,” Thierry wrote. “By expanding the representation on the board, we ensure a diversity of perspectives and interests are considered, leading to more fair and equitable outcomes.”

The labor federation has endorsed Blueford-Daniels, Noriega and Adeleke in their respective elections.

Malone said the federation is supporting the trio because of their experience working for or with taxing entities. He said it was crucial to avoid electing someone who could support the board naming an ant-tax chief appraiser.

“Millions of dollars are being spent for an outcome that is really unclear,” Malone said. “We can speculate on the motivations, but in the context of the last two sessions where we saw all this legislation pass to defund schools and school services … we know there could be a risk to our really important revenue streams.”

That’s the first real story I’ve seen since January when we first learned about this new election. If you look at the list of candidates who filed for the races and compare it to those listed on that sample ballot the story links to, you’ll notice that two people have withdrawn, Era Ford and Melody Ellis. With at least three candidates in each race, we’re very likely to get at least one runoff, which will be in July.

I have done interviews with three of these candidates and I have a fourth one in the works; I’ll run them over the next two weeks. These are weird races because there’s not that much that appraisal district boards and their members actually do, at least in terms of things they can make promises about on a campaign trail. I think Jay Malone has the right idea here, so be sure to listen to the interviews I’ve done and make sure you get out and vote in this election, for which early voting begins on April 22 and runs through April 30. As noted in the story, the SD15 special election, now featuring just Molly Cook and Jarvis Johnson, is also on May 4, with the same early voting schedule. Turnout will be very light. Make your voice heard.

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2 Responses to Hey look, it’s a story about the HCAD elections

  1. Pingback: Interview with Pelumi Adeleke | Off the Kuff

  2. Bill Shirley says:

    “The races are being held at significant cost to the appraisal district.”

    another argument for ranked-choice voting.

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