When the Denton ISD Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to disapprove Denton Central Appraisal District’s 2022-23 budget, it became the 31st of 60 taxing entities to do so, forcing DCAD to adopt a new budget.
DCAD, a taxing political subdivision of the state of Texas, recently raised its annual budget by $2.7 million in an attempt to address understaffing, which the district says will speed up its processing time and better serve residents and government entities. DCAD and Chief Appraiser Hope McClure have been criticized in recent months for DCAD’s work environment and processing delays and McClure’s leadership.
One of their most outspoken critics, Denton County Judge Andy Eads, has said the county has “no confidence” in DCAD under McClure’s leadership, adding, “Denton County will not fund failure.”
Eads made the remarks during a Denton County Commissioners Court meeting on Aug. 3, when the county was the first entity to approve a resolution disapproving DCAD’s budget. According to the Texas Property Tax Code, if a majority of the taxing entities within the district’s boundaries disapprove of its budget within 30 days of its adoption, the budget won’t take effect and the DCAD board will have to adopt a new budget within 30 days of disapproval. Dozens of towns and school districts — including Lewisville ISD, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Highland Village and Argyle — have disapproved the DCAD budget in the three weeks since.
On Tuesday, Eads said during the most recent Commissioners Court meeting that 30 — exactly half — of the taxing entities within DCAD’s boundaries have formally rejected the DCAD budget, with several more expected to do so. Denton ISD became the difference-making 31st later Tuesday evening.
Eads called the situation “unprecedented.”
“Throughout this county, the taxing entities are asking for better service, accurate and timely certified tax rolls and a plan to ensure success,” Eads said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We all want a properly funded and a properly functioning appraising district. Denton CAD is now in its third year of either not accurately or timely providing certified tax rolls to entities throughout Denton County.”
McClure began her third year as chief appraiser in February.
An attempt to contact a DCAD spokesman on Wednesday was unsuccessful. DCAD has not posted any statements about the disapprovals on its website or social media pages. DCAD Board Chairman Roy Atwood said in an email late Wednesday that the board will consider the concerns raised by the taxing entities during its next scheduled meeting, Sept. 13.
“I am surprised by the number of entities objecting to the budget because the board passed the budget feeling it was necessary for the appraisal district to have the funds necessary to meet the needs of taxpayers and the entities,” Atwood said.
This summer, a consultant’s report on DCAD’s work environment was leaked to a Dallas Morning News columnist that called DCAD “one of Texas’ most troubled appraisal districts” and said it had a “toxic work environment.” Before the next DCAD board meeting, McClure prepared a presentation to rebut almost everything in the report and to tout her accomplishments and qualifications. She also included positive feedback about herself and DCAD from anonymous staff members. During that board meeting, McClure said DCAD did not have a toxic work environment, but there were “a couple toxic employees.”
McClure recently hired a communications liaison, Emer Sanabria, who last week sent an email to DCAD employees asking for them to send him letters praising McClure that he could then release publicly in response to all of the disapprovals and statements against DCAD. Screenshots of the email were then leaked to the media and local officials.
“I am asking that you write a first-person testimony about your experience here at DCAD and especially with the Chief Appraiser, Hope McClure,” Sanabria’s email said. “Some examples may be, you worked with the past Chiefs and want to tell how different DCAD is now. Maybe Hope hired you recently, and you can say how happy you are under her leadership. Maybe you had a medical or family issue, and you could speak to Hope’s compassion and willingness to help you work through it at DCAD.”
On Tuesday, Eads mentioned this email during the Commissioners Court meeting.
“I cannot imagine any supervisor or employer asking employees to do something that could add additional pressure and result in a more stressful work environment,” Eads said. “This puts employees in a bad position and distracts them during their busiest time.”
County commissioners also spoke out against the DCAD board’s lack of action and a lack of change in leadership.
“It’s a sad day in Denton County,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell said Tuesday. “It makes me sad that we’re having to do this in order to get their attention, that they need to pay attention to their business. All of us work for our constituents, they expect us to keep their taxes low and their appraisals fair.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner Ryan Williams said the situation is an “embarrassment.” He added that the “lack of response” from DCAD has been “totally disrespectful.”