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Coryell appraisal district warned of suit

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Posted: Monday, January 22, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 4:53 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Joyce May

Killeen Daily Herald

An attorney for the Coryell Tea Party has sent a five-page cause of action to the Coryell County Appraisal District requesting that the entity rescind its policy concerning "flat site improvements," reexamine 2006 appraisals and make necessary changes in order to avoid legal action.

Dick Butler, organizer of the Coryell Tea Party, said the group's attorney, Marc Levin of Austin, sent the letter Tuesday.

"It outlines the case," he said. "It tells them the reason we think what they are doing is illegal and has all the case law."

Butler said the group will give the appraisal district time to respond before proceeding. He described the flat-site improvement tax as an effort by those levying taxes to circumvent homestead exemption laws by separating the land from the homestead and radically increasing the land value.

Chief Appraiser Jerry Hogg said he has sent a copy of the cause of action to the district's attorney, Robert Meyers, for review and will address the matter with the executive board when it convenes at 3 p.m. Thursday.

"When he reviews that, I will be able to respond to the board of directors of what our attorney's response was, and they will have a better idea of how to handle it," Hogg said. "It implies legal action if we do not respond in the way he deems appropriate."

Hogg said he will also discuss at the meeting a letter from the Tea Party sent in December requesting the resignation of all appraisal district board members.

He said that although the two matters will likely not be a specific agenda items, they will be brought up during the portion of the agenda labeled "chief appraiser's report."

That portion is for informational discussion with the board that does not require any action to be taken, but the board can give the chief appraiser guidance, and the item can be put on a future agenda for action if need be, Hogg said.

The Coryell Tea Party is a citizen's group that formed this past summer to protest a dramatic increase in property tax valuations. The group has taken its cause statewide and is calling for legislative change and the ultimate elimination of appraisal districts and property taxes.

The sharp spike, which Hogg said was necessary because property had been undervalued for years, resulted in a record number of appraisal protests and ultimately the revelation of employee misconduct at the office.

The group called Hogg's handling of the situations negligent and said that public confidence in the board has eroded, particularly since October when it increased Hogg's salary to $70,000 and extended his contract through Dec. 31, 2008.

Hogg began the position in June 2005 amid turmoil caused by late appraisal notices and a history of under-appraisals in the county.

The Tea Party executive board sent a letter dated Dec. 20 requesting the resignation of the appraisal board directors in wake of the chain of controversies that have plagued the district since tax notices were sent out in May 2006.

"They could solve all their problems if they would just resign, and we could deal with the new board," Butler said. "Our intention is to go to the taxing entities if they don't resign and ask that they be withdrawn."

The letter stated that the board and chief appraiser have failed to meet guidelines established by the Texas comptroller's office to ensure that appraisal districts operate in a fair and efficient manner.

The appraisal district board members serve voluntarily and are appointed by the various taxing entities within the county.

Butler said that he does not expect the members to voluntarily resign and therefore the group will be sending requests to the various entities that appoint them asking for the withdrawal of members "that have a clear conflict of interest."

The Tea Party is planning to hold meetings in early February in both Copperas Cove and Gatesville.

Contact Joyce May at jmay@kdhnews.com

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