Tarrant County Commissioners will be asked Tuesday to take enough money out of its reserve funds to cover the flow of money to taxpayers waiting for property tax refunds.
Tarrant County taxpayers were told last month that about $12 million in refunds needed to be paid at a time when the cash flow from tax collections were at a low ebb. As a result, officials have been putting off distributing money to taxing entities to allow the refunds to be made to property owners.
The problem was blamed by some county officials on a software upgrade at the Tarrant Appraisal District that made it difficult to produce a timely and accurate property tax role.
I’m going to ask the court to step up and authorize the money so we can make sure that taxpayers who are owed a refund are made whole as quickly as possible. … It is just the right thing to do, Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius
County Administrator G.K. Maenius said Friday that he will ask commissioners to set aside the money, pending a stamp of approval by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office and a request from the Tax Assessor-Collector’s office for the money.
“I’m going to ask the court to step up and authorize the money so we can make sure that taxpayers who are owed a refund are made whole as quickly as possible,” Maenius said. “It is just the right thing to do.”
Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright said so far no individual refunds have been delayed and that by Monday he will have processed 60 percent to 70 percent of the $8.7 million he suddenly discovered he owed the public in August. His office was already processing more than $3 million in refunds at the time.
We’re making a lot of progress here. … We’ve been paying the refunds from the start, Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright
The amount of money needed may be $2.6 million to $3.5 million, Wright said. While the money crunch is far from a crisis, he does describe the size and quantity of the refunds be distributed is unprecedented for this time of year. The next round of tax bills generating revenue won’t be sent out until Oct. 1.
“If Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson says it is okay, I will request the money,” Wright said.
County officials blame the refund snafus on TAD’s software problems in April. TAD generally sends supplemental tax rollschanges to the tax-assessor’s office monthly, with changes ranging from homes being sold to new owners, property increasing in value, and property owners requesting new exemptions.
Typically, the county will get changes on a few thousand accounts.
But the tax assessor-collector’s office did not get a supplemental roll in May, then received three in June before getting one that was usable, according to a letter that Wright sent to taxing entities this month. All that lead to a supplemental report with more than 80,000 changes and 5,100 refunds totaling $8.7 million.
TAD Chief Appraiser Jeff Law has said that the refunds are not related to software problems but to the higher volume of exemption requests and a bigger number of tax protests.
To avoid paying interest on the refunds, Wright must pay taxpayers within 60 days of getting a certified role. So far, he has been able to do so.
“We’re making a lot of progress here,” Wright said. “We’ve been paying the refunds from the start.”
But to keep the money flowing to taxpayers, Wright’s office had told the taxing entities that distributions to them are being suspended until the refund liability is satisfied. He said almost every entity owed money from the supplement. Tarrant County owed $1.1 million, for example.
“We won’t be paying out to the taxing entities until all of the refunds are sent to the taxpayers,” Wright said.