Devine City Council approves Appraisal District’s estimated property values, proposed budget in split vote

Recently elected District 5 Councilman Cory Thompson cast the sole dissenting votes when the Devine City Council approved the Medina County Appraisal District’s estimated taxable value of properties and proposed 2018 budget at the meeting held last Tuesday, June 20.
Estimated property tax values
Chief Appraiser Johnette Dixon said the 2017 net taxable value was $183,676, 627, a year-to-year increase of over $1 million.
The net taxable value in 2016 was $182,578,612.
“We didn’t do any big changes in the City of Devine or Devine ISD,” Dixon said, noting that a re-appraisal of this area of the county was done in 2016, and that the increase in value this year stemmed from the addition of O’Reilly Auto Parts, Murphy Gas, and new homes.
Thompson took issue with what he described as disparity in property values throughout Devine.
“We have houses here that are all next door to each other, that were all built the same year, and all in the same condition,” Thompson said, noting that the homes are priced at $86.00, $92.00, and $101.00 per square foot.
Thompson cited other examples he said were brought to him by homeowners in District 5, including a golf course-facing home on Malone Dr. built in 1968 that is priced at $117.00 per square foot. The house directly behind it, built in 1993, is priced at $89.00 per square foot.
Because the house on Malone Dr. has a swimming pool, Thompson also pointed out a home on Sollock Dr. that was constructed in 1996 and has a pool, but is only valued at $92.00 per square foot.
Mayor Bill Herring suggested that Thompson meet with Dixon at a later date to voice specific concerns.
“I don’t have a problem with that at all,” Dixon said.
The deadline to file protests was June 26. The Appraisal Review Board is set to hear scheduled protests beginning July 10.
No other Council members raised objections, and a David Espinosa-Steve Lopez motion to approve the estimated taxable value of properties passed 4-1, with Thompson dissenting.
2018 proposed Appraisal District budget
Also up for approval was the Appraisal District’s proposed 2018 budget of $1,204,290, an increase of $116,515 over last year’s proposed budget of $1,087,775.
One of the reasons behind the increase was the purchase of a new software system that Dixon said would make the appraisers’ jobs easier.
“It’s better technology,” Dixon said. “Out of the 254 [appraisal] districts, there’s probably 200 that use the same program.”
The District also allotted $52,000 for an aerial flight by a company named Pictometry, who will provide three-dimensional photographs that Dixon said would allow appraisers to measure the height of structures without having to access private properties, which is increasingly problematic in rural areas of the county.
“It gives us more advantage of getting everything put on the tax roll that needs to be put on the tax roll, and with a lot less omissions,” Dixon said.
With the Appraisal District’s increase comes an increase in the City’s contribution. Devine’s pro rata share of the District’s 2018 budget is $18,720.45, an increase of $3,056.49 from the $15,663.96 for the 2017 budget.
A David Valdez-Espinosa motion to approve the 2018 proposed Appraisal District budget passed 4-1 with no further discussion, Thompson dissenting.
Council appointments
Every two years, Council confirms the appointments of a number of positions, including city attorney, judge, alternate judge, prosecutor, Library Board, Planning & Zoning Commission, Airport Advisory Board, Emergency Management Coordinator, and various consultants and advisors.
The only changes in the list of nominees were on the Library Board, which has three vacancies after Blaine Martin, Sara Hicks, and Maria Silva chose to step down.
“What is the procedure behind that?” Thompson asked. “Is there a notice in the paper, or is it just when somebody feels like it?”
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez explained that every two years, City staff calls those currently serving to ask if they want to continue in their roles. The names of those who do are submitted to Council, who then votes on the positions.
Thompson said he wasn’t elected with 80 percent of the vote in a three-way race to rubber stamp the status quo.
“Well, they’re not really standing in line fighting for this,” Herring pointed out.
A Kathy Wilkins-Lopez motion to approve the list of Council appoints as presented passed 4-1, Thompson dissenting.
The appointments are City Attorney – Tom Cate; Judge – Mark Haby; Alternate Judge – Joseph Appelt; Prosecutor – Bobby Jack Rushing; Library Board – Cindy Wadsworth, Kelli Maxwell, Hap Squires, Grace (Desi) McElwee, and Jose Guardiola; Planning & Zoning Commission – Doug Wilkins, Onis Wiemers, Ed Dougherty, Darrell Murdock, Jim Lawler, Mike Herring, and Rick Maxwell; Airport Advisory Board – Vickie Pumphrey, Curly Brehm, Bill Bain, Tony Crosby, Glen Dale Estep, Hap Squires, and Greg Coyne; Emergency Management Coordinator – Rob Flores; and consultants and advisors – Langford Community Management Services (grant writers), Garcia & Wright (engineers), and SAMCO Capital Markets, Inc. (financial advisory).
Other action
Lopez was unanimously re-appointed as Mayor Pro-Tem; the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation that Gordon Belcher be granted a setback waiver for a 16 by 40-foot accessory building passed unanimously; and the minutes of the May 16 Regular meeting and May 23 Special meeting were unanimously approved, with the caveat that the minutes of the Special meeting be amended to reflect that Espinosa “reluctantly” provided a second to Thompson’s motion to join economic development group Go Medina County.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer