The Wharton County Central Appraisal District gets back into the office today with the return of property value appeal hearings.

The office closed the week of July 6 after one employee tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, the office has been sterilized and all other employees have completed precautionary, voluntary quarantines.

Appeals over property evaluations started March 16 and were near complete when the hearings came to a stop.

“I only had four days more in hearings, but this thing just seems so dangerous. Everyone has been so careful and aware, but as the count went up, it (a person becoming ill) was just going to happen,” Chief Appraiser Tylene Gamble told the newspaper. “Our property owners and public have been great. They have been very patient and worked hard at keeping everyone safe.”

Hearings should be complete by Monday, July 27.

Several precautions are in place as of today to help ensure the safety of the public and staff.

“Masks or face coverings are required until the count for active cases in Wharton County falls below 10,” Gamble said.

The lobby remains closed, at least for now.

With multiple hearings still pending, the CAD isn’t yet ready to release official property values for each of Wharton County’s taxing entities like the City of El Campo, Wharton County and the assorted Emergency Services Districts.

The CAD’s values are used by the Wharton County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office to compute the effective tax rates for those taxing entities. The effective rates are the tax levies each entity needs to bring in the same tax dollars based on the same properties.

In general, as the property values of a taxing entity goes up, its effective rate goes down, and as values fall, the effective rate goes up.

By state law, the maintenance and operations portion of a tax rate can’t go up 8 or more percent above the effective tax rate in a single year without the issue going before voters.

“After the hearings (for commercial properties) on the 24th, I hope to do a certified estimate,” Gamble said.

She added that the office should be able to ensure taxing entities get the information they need in a timely fashion.

“Our deadlines affect all the deadlines after us,” Gamble said.

Anyone with questions for the CAD can contact the office today at 979-532-8931. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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