Caraway gets all votes for spot on appraisal board

County Commissioners

It was a point of contention, but the Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday decided to cast all of the county’s votes for County Tax Assessor-Collector Luanne Caraway for a spot on the Hays Central Appraisal District Board of Directors.

“Clearly it’s a conflict of interest,” said Hays County resident Dan Lyon, who had spoken against Caraway’s nomination to the board two months ago. “When you have a tax assessorcollector being able to be one of the seven voices to say, ‘Shall we hire or fire the chief appraiser’ … I don’t know how to explain it to you any clearer than that.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant asked Lyon if he had contacted the state attorney general’s office to find out if Caraway’s appointment would constitute a conflict of interest. Lyon replied that he is not a lawyer but that the county’s counsel should have the answers. Hays County General Counsel said that there is no legal conflict of interest in Caraway’s appointment.

“I think that perhaps you’re trying to express what in your gut you feel is a conflict, whether it’s a legal conflict or not,” Kennedy told Lyon, adding that the sense of a conflict “varies from gut to gut.”

“Let’s call it a moral conflict,” Lyon responded. “And if the county commissioners have no morals, then where are we?”

Lyon said that Caraway, as tax assessor-collector, would try to get the maximum amount of taxes out of Hays County residents, and that would put pressure on the chief appraiser.

“Our appraisals have been the real problem,” Lyon said, noting that the tax rate had gone down but property value appraisals had gone up. “It’s not the tax rate … but it’s the appraisals that are raising the effective tax rate, which has skyrocketed.”

In September, when the county nominated Caraway as a candidate for the appraisal district board, Lyon had said Caraway would have an interest in keeping tax rates high. Caraway explained that the appraisal district board of directors oversees the budget and the hiring and firing of the chief appraiser, but does nothing to determine property values.

“The only time we ever see values is when there’s been a lawsuit that’s gone to district court and there’s a settlement offer,” Caraway said, noting that state law prohibits the directors from even discussing values with the chief appraiser. “The board has nothing to do with the setting of values.”

Caraway also noted that even if the county does not nominate her for a seat on the board, “The county tax assessor-collector is on the board regardless. … If you do not place me on that board as your nominee, I am on that board as a non-voting member.”

The county voted for Caraway to serve a two-year term on the board of directors.

In other business, commissioners postponed any action on the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for work related to the jail bond. Kennedy said he is drafting certain provisions of a contract with the construction manager at-risk and that eventually, the construction firm will come back to the court with a proposal that will include the entire scope of the project and is an acceptable amount for the commissioners.

San Marcos Daily Record

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