Court approves appraisal reform resolution

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light

A resolution encouraging the Texas Legislature to increase public participation in the selection of county tax appraisal boards won approval during Tuesday’s regular bi-weekly meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court.

At the last meeting on Oct. 5, the court heard an updated resolution written by Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry, who said he made changes to the language of the resolution.

County Judge Todd Little said the resolution asks the Texas Legislature to pass legislation that would allow each county to choose by referendum whether or not to allow the direct election of appraisal board members.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Under current state law, appraisal district board members are nominated and voted upon by taxing authorities in the county using a weighted system. Each taxing authority — including the Commissioners’ Court, city councils and school boards — are assigned a number of votes that they can award to a candidate or candidates.

On June 30, Perry first presented a resolution urging the legislature to make reforms in property tax appraisals. The motion was tabled after Little and other commissioners said they hadn’t seen the proposed resolution until the day of the meeting.

Butler recognized

Precinct 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler was recognized for his completion of a voluntary advanced course on county government titled Commissioners Court Advanced Curriculum.

Butler received a Certificate of Achievement from the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (CJCAT), sponsor of the Commissioners Court Advanced Curriculum Program, at the CJCAT Annual Conference in Abilene conducted Oct. 5-8.

While state law requires 16 hours per year of continuing education for County Commissioners, the Commissioners Court Advanced Curriculum Program provides for certification upon completion of a comprehensive course of study as follows: Phase I Orientation – 16-plus hours; Phase II Basics – 16 hours; Phase III Electives – 32 hours.

The CJCAT, a statewide organization with more than 1,200 active members, promotes the interests of county government and provides the opportunity for statutorily required continuing education.

Other items

• County auditor Janet Martin said a recent routine audit of the county Texas Assessor/Collector’s Office revealed a cash-mishandling incident by a former employee. Martin said a complete audit report with documentation will be given to the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office.

• The court OK’d the appointment of presiding and alternating judges as well as central counting station personnel for the upcoming two-year term as submitted by the Democratic and Republican Parties. 

• The court agreed on a memorandum of understanding to extend a two-year agreement with Indigent Healthcare Solutions. Commissioners also passed a resolution to apply for the fiscal year 2021 Texas Indigent Defense Formula grant.

• Commissioners heard presentations from David Hudgins on the Ellis County Museum expansion project, and from Dr. Donald Kelm on the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office.

• A $14,800 contract with Schaumburg & Polk, Inc. for roadway condition assessment and analysis for Road and Bridge Precinct 2 was approved. Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson said the analysis will set a benchmark for road conditions in his precinct.

• A payment schedule was approved for the county’s share of right-of-way acquisition for two segments of the FM 664 widening project. The county will make four annual payments of about $82,580 on Dec. 1 starting this year for the segment from west of Ferris Road to Interstate 45, and four annual payments of about $65,239 for the FM 664 segment from Interstate 35E to west of Ferris Road.

• In purchasing matters, commissioners agreed to 3-year lease agreements for two 2020 Chevrolet Tahoes for police patrol with a $16,000 per vehicle down payment; renewed contracts with Cleveland Asphalt Projects, Inc. and Arcosa Aggregates for one year each; and construction agreements in the amount of $670,000 with Northridge Construction Group, LLC regarding Courtroom No. 6.

• An amendment to the county’s food service management agreement between the Sheriff’s Department and Correctional Food Services was approved. The cost of meals for officers will increase from $3 to $4. Sheriff Chuck Edge said a 90-day trial will be held where only two hot meals per day instead of three will be served in order to cut operational costs; the third meal will be cold.

• In a matter also related to the Sheriff’s Department, commissioners agreed to transfer $84,000 from a contingency fund to the jail budget for two detention officers.

• The court approved a replat of a 6.67-acre property in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Ennis; a release of maintenance bonds and the acceptance of infrastructure for Bryson Springs Phase II, an 88.6-acre development in the Midlothian ETJ; and the establishment of rules for the location and operation of slaughterhouses within unincorporated areas of the county. The county had previously relied on state law to govern the operation of slaughterhouses.

• Consent agenda items that were approved included separate payments to the Texas Department of Transportation of $89,905 and $47,081 for right-of-way for the Ellis County portion of Loop 9; payment of membership dues to two North Texas Council of Governments programs totaling $6,500; acceptance of reports; a pair of budgetary line item adjustments; and the approval of a mass gathering application refund of $250 to the Waxahachie Booster Club.