This is a continuation of the interview with Runnels Tax Appraisal District chairman Alvin Dunn and chief appraiser PaulScott Randolph. The interview was conducted in July and was over 2 hours long. I’ve broken it down into segments in order to give Dunn and Randolph’s full version of how the board operates and to answer questions posed by the taxpayers.
Q: The $81,000 used for protests this year comes out of the budget. The state comptroller doesn’t help with that?
Dunn: “That comes out of county taxes, the total amount of taxes.”
Randolph: “We wind up eating it. We ask for an amended budget but we have not asked for it this year. The last 3 years we’ve actually spent money to do our jobs. We went over our budget considerably but we had to use money out of our savings and did not ask the entities for any more funding.”
Dunn: “We’ve amended the budget twice since I’ve been here.”
Randolph: “Unbeknownst to the public, before I became chief appraiser, I’d worked in here as an appraiser for almost a decade. And now I’ve been here as chief appraiser coming on my 5th tax year. I have made numerous leaps and bounds to help the public. Everything you see here, we did it. We built everything by hand, it was all built by hand.”
Dunn: “We didn’t even have a webpage. I can’t remember how much it was going to cost us to get somebody to do it but we got people who already worked here to do it for us so we saved that money. That’s the main thing that I’m concerned with as being chairman of the board, getting in under the budget if we can. And doing it the way it should be done. I’ll give you a good example of this; Mueller supply. They went before the ARB board, brought their suited lawyers in. We couldn’t fight them. There’s no way on this God’s green earth that we could fight them. Or Buddy’s Plant plus or AEP or Jameson Gas, none of those we could fight because we just don’t have the resources to fight them. The state is not going to help us, even though we’re mandated to have these figures by the state. They say, ‘We’re not going to send you a lawyer to help you.’”
Q: So, when it comes to these issues, you just have to negotiate? You’re left to your own devices?
Dunn: “My question, ‘Is Mueller Supply, Buddy’s Plant Plus, Atmos, AEP, are they paying their fair share?’ I believe that they are because what we do is we go before other tax entities and compare what they’re all paying.”
Q: With businesses like Mueller’s, that takes a significant amount of time because you have to do a lot of work.
Dunn: “That’s why our staff doesn’t appraise them. We hire a firm to evaluate all capital properties.”
Randolph: “That’s all the oil, gas, mineral, utility and all of that nature. They’re all part of that. We contract and they’re at the pleasure of the board as well. The board hires them and I oversee them. If they’re not doing what I believe that they should be doing then I report back to the board and the board deals with it.”
Dunn: “I got crossways with a firm. They wanted to renew their contract and they were wanting $4,000 more a year. I said that I think we need to open this up for bids. Well, when all of the bids were submitted, the one I really wanted was from San Antonio but there was no way we could afford it. The original firm, Pritcher & Abbot, lowered their bid by $2,000 but this other firm, Wardlaw, was the second lowest. I looked on the resume’s, Robin and I both looked at it. Pritcher and Abbot had 6 counties on their resume’s that they didn’t have. She contacted the firm and they said that they had lost those counties. So I made a motion that we hire Wardlaw. And we did. When it was all over, Mr. Abbot told us, ‘You realize that you didn’t take the lowest bid?’ I told him, ‘You realize that you did falsify your resume’ and I’m sure Susan Combs would like to know that.’”
Q: When it comes to awarding these contracts, do you have a minimum number of bids that you have to accept?
Randolph: “The year that Alvin’s talking about, we did have 11 bids that year. We sent all of the information to each member of the board so that they could review it. We narrowed it down to three.”
Dunn: “It was just like the state coming in and saying, “You’re gonna have this mapping system and you’re going to have it up to date. If you don’t have it up-to-date, we’re sending people in to check and if you don’t have it up to date, we’ll replace you.”
Randolph: “That was a lot of money. Of course, your biggest expense is your plotter. We hadn’t had software up-to-date when I became chief of appraiser. So I extended the time to 2021 so we can have everything mapped in and when someone comes to us, they can say, ‘This is my property and this is how it lays.’ Of course, everything we get is from public records.”
Dunn: “Now, this mapping system. They can come in and say I want Bill Hancock’s property. They’re supposed to be able to get this data. They are supposed to be able to pull up your address and directions on how to get to your house. Why? Why would somebody from Austin, Texas want to know how to get to your house? But, they do want to know and they can do that with the mapping program when it’s finished. It’s mandated to us.”
The next installment of the interview will be in the paper next week.