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Democrat-backed candidates sweep first Travis County appraisal election

A photo of the Travis Central Appraisal District building on a cloudy day in Austin.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
For the first time, voters had the chance to elect three members of the board of the directors for the Travis Central Appraisal District.

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Three candidates backed by the local Democratic Party won seats to the Travis Central Appraisal District’s board of directors, who help manage property appraisals.

Jett Hanna, Shenghao "Daniel" Wang and Dick Lavine soundly defeated three others backed by the local Republican Party on Saturday, including Matt Mackowiak, chair of the party in Travis County, and Don Zimmerman, a former Austin City Council member.

While the volunteer positions are officially nonpartisan, the local parties helped candidates campaign.

“I look forward to helping all the people of Travis County understand this complicated tax system better and to help make sure the rules are followed to ensure transparency, fairness and ethical behavior,” Hanna, who beat Zimmerman in the Place 1 election, said in an email.

"We ran to give the minority of voters a chance to be heard, and the majority voted with the partisan Democrat machine as they always do," Zimmerman said in a text message.

This is the first time voters in Texas have been asked to elect people to oversee the appraisal process. Each year, property owners receive an estimate of their property’s value from the local central appraisal district. Taxing entities, including cities, counties and community college districts, then vote to decide what portion of a property owner's taxable value to collect.

While an increase in someone’s appraisal seldom means a higher property tax bill, the appraisal is the first step in calculating someone’s bill.

The process of calculating an appraisal can be highly contentious. Each central appraisal district, including the Travis Central Appraisal District, has a board of directors to help manage the process. In the past, TCAD’s board has had 10 members, nine of whom were appointed by entities that collect taxes, including the city, county and public school districts.

But as part of a sweeping property tax bill passed last year, state lawmakers made some of these board positions elected instead of appointed. A change like that required amending the state’s constitution and getting approval from voters to do so — approval they gave at the ballot box in November.

The board of directors, including the newly-elected members, will continue to have the power to hire the chief appraiser, who oversees the appraisal office. Unlike before, they will now have the power to appoint members to the appraisal review board. This board handles homeowners’ protests of their appraisals and members have the ability to lower values.

Few people participated in Saturday’s election. Just over 6% of registered voters in Travis County cast a ballot, a level of turnout not uncommon in a May election. While all precincts have reported their vote totals to the county elections division, the results are unofficial until reviewed and approved by county officials.

Scroll below for election results. If the results do not appear, try refreshing the page.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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