Some of the discussion at the Cooke County Appraisal District’s (CCAD) Board of Directors meeting Thursday night was in reaction to a state report on the tax district’s practices.

There was some good news. But it was mostly criticism of how the CCAD is managed.

Wayne Dodson, Callisburg area resident, spoke in the public comments portion of the meeting and noted the series of “appraisal standards reviews” reports from the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

There was an item on the CCAD Board’s agenda to address the Comptrollers reviews.

According to an “executive summary” from the Comptroller’s office, in July 2004 the Lindsay, Callisburg and Valley View ISDs joined 51 other school districts to request an appraisal standards review of their respective counties. In May 2005, the Comptroller’s Property Tax Division began an evaluation of Cooke County.

According to the highlights of the reports — which comprise about 30 pages — there was one commendation and eight recommendations.

The commendable practice was: “The CCAD is commended for its use of technology and for having the maps digitized and integrated into the system.”

At the meeting, Smithson said the CCAD uses True Automation, a system which allows appraisers to zoom in on satellite images of property and attain different perspectives of the property from several angles and measure approximate distances.

Smithson said CCAD was the 18th client of the company, and now there are 104 clients.

“We’re still pleased with them,” Smithson.

Of the eight items to be addressed, Smithson said many of the objectives have been completed.

Dec. 31 is the deadline for the CCAD to submit a plan of action to the Comptroller’s office.

One of the Comptroller’s office’s findings and recommendations was for the CCAD to: “Develop procedures for responding to notes on the financial statement and management letter findings.”

Part of the meeting was devoted to establishing what kind of across-the-board and merit pay raises would be allowed. The CCAD Board voted 4-0 to establish a cap of a 3 percent raise — with 1.5 percent being cost of living, and an additional, possible 1.5 percent increase for each employee.

The Comptroller’s report noted an instance where an employee stole $31,045 from the CCAD. Dodson asked if restitution was being made. Smithson said the culprit is making payments.

At press time, Smithson said he has responded to each of the recommendations and findings from the Comptroller’s office. His replies will appear in a future Register when received.

Other recommendations from the Comptroller’s office were:

• Develop an expand budget document that is distributed to the taxing units

• Establish written procedures for monitoring professional services contracts and revise current contracts as they expire to include venue clause, deliverables and deliverable dates.

• Use the evaluation tool and establish an annual evaluation process for the chief appraiser.

• Develop a comprehensive written policy and procedures manual for district administrative operations.

• Prepare and issue to each appraiser detailed appraisal procedures manuals that provide local procedures and practices for each type of property the staff appraises.

• Adopt a detailed reappraisal plan that, at a minimum, includes the vital steps in the process, explains exactly how and when the steps will be executed, and explains how sufficient resources will be allocated to follow the plan.

• Establish comprehensive written ratio study procedures that allow proper reappraisal and maintenance planning. CCAD lacks detailed ration study procedures.

CCAD Board member Zach Nichols advised Smithson to exercise caution in the next year.

“Doug, for yours and my benefit, stay on top of things. I don’t want to have to go through this again,” Nichols said.

Smithson said Texas Education Agency district financial “report cards” triggered the evaluations.

Nichols said Smithson has a difficult job in dealing with the public as well as the taxing entities.

“I understand it’s a tough job, like working for the IRS,” he said.

In other business, the CCAD Board tabled an item on its 2007 budget for further discussion.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]ntin.net