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Dallas County Tax Assessors Discuss Property Taxes

Coppell—Dallas County tax assessor/collector John R. Ames discussed the scope of his duties at the Cozby Library on Thursday, Nov. 4. He was joined by Cheryl Jordan, the Dallas County Appraisal District director of community relations.

The two discussed the function of Assessor and Collector’s offices and the Appraisal District’sduties for all of Dallas County.

“[Taxing units] are the governing bodies,” Jordan said. “They’re your city council, the school board, the county commissioners.The tax assessor collector is a part of that. They decide the amount and the use of the revenue. They set the tax rates. [The assessor collector] collects the taxes, generates statements, and collects your money.

“The appraisal district has a board of directors, the appraisers, and the Appraisal Review Board. The board of directors’ job is to hire the chief appraiser,” Jordan said. “The chief appraiser is responsible for discovering and valuing properties, administers the exemptions, maintains ownerships and mailing addresses, gets all of the details from the county clerk, and processes information, so we know who to send the tax codes to.

“The appraisal review board settlesdisputes between the appraisals and property owners.

“The official state agencies, the comptrollers and public accounts, as far as it relates to [taxes], do a study every two years. They study our property, review [the appraisal district’s] value assessments, and we get a report card. We make a really good report card here in Dallas County,” Jordan said. “Appraisers go through a process over four years to get the registered professional appraisal license. We take classes every year.

“The fourth player [in the property tax system] is you. What you do is pay taxes, which is a huge responsibility. You file for exemptions with our office. You protest your value with our office. You elect taxing unit officials. You attend public hearings. You give input on tax rates, so you have a big part in this process as well.”

“As the Dallas County tax assessor collector, I actually collect for multiple jurisdictions,” John Ames,collector assessor, said. “I’m statutorily required to collect for the county-wide jurisdictions, which in this case is Dallas County, Parkland Hospital District, Dallas County community hospitals, the community college district, and the Dallas County busing system.

“We also contractually collect with over 23 cities within Dallas County, and 10 school districts within Dallas County. In addition, I collect over 40 different special and public improvement districts.

“We issue refunds for overpayments, erroneous payments, and supplemental adjustments.

“When I took office 13 years ago, I refunded over $45 million. There were refunds sitting on the books in Dallas County that had been there for a number of years: overpayments, erroneous payments, exemptions that had been applied, and had never been refunded back to the taxpayer,” Ames said.“So immediately I said, ‘What’s that money doing sitting there?’ And they said, ‘We don’t know who it belongs to, or it belongs to somebody and we just haven’t had time to give it back.’ I said, ‘Let’s give it back. It doesn’t belong to us,’ which is pretty unprecedented.

“There are three factors to your property taxes: the value by the appraisal district, exemptions as granted by the appraisal district, and the tax rate as set by the government.

“Dallas County last year, their tax rate was $0.23974. They lowered it this year to $0.227946. The city of Coppell last year was at 58 cents; they maintain that rate of 58 cents. Coppell ISD was at $1.31, they lowered that to $1.29. Your highest tax on your home is always going to be your school district. Historically, your second highest tax is going to be your city.

“The commissioners in Dallas County actually have full authority over the tax rate and budget for Parkland Hospital District because it is a county hospital,” Ames said. “The Dallas County Community College was at $0.124 for last year and they lowered it to $0.12351. And Dallas County schools by state law are at a penny and will remain a penny until such time as all the debts are paid off.

“Last year, your total tax rate accumulation here in Coppell was $0.252984. It did go down to $0.2488456. So even though values went up, tax rates went down.”

“We have 800,000 properties [in Dallas County],” Jordan said. “We have means of trying to [appraise] by mass in this universal process. As mass appraisal, we paint with a very broad brush, and that’s why it’s your responsibility if we get your property wrong, you should protest and tell us about it.”

Jordan spoke about property tax exemptions and why owners should apply for them.

“[Exemptions] exclude value from taxation,” Jordan said. “There are partial exemptions that exclude part of the value, and there are absolute total exemptions that exclude all of that. Churches, religious organizations, schools, those are the ones that typically have the total exclusion.

“Types of exemptions include residents homestead exemption, age 65 or older exemption, disabled person exemption, disabled veteran exemption, surviving spouse exemption.

“Exemptions can also eliminate late payment penalties, lower late payment interest rates, defer taxes due when ownership changes or the property owner dies, cap the amount your tax can go up,” Jordan said.

There is a Tax Rate Transparency Website at which people can view exactly how their rates are calculated, calculate the taxes on potential properties with myriad different conditions, see tax rates changes from year to year, and more at DallasCountyTexasTaxes.gov.