Some North Texas school districts say they’re out millions of dollars due to a software glitch, according to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report this week.
The Tarrant County Appraisal District used software that didn’t produce accurate appraisals. Officials say they’ve fixed the problem for this year’s appraisals.
Still, the error led some districts to tighten their budgets and even eliminate some positions. The Fort Worth school district says it lost $12 million in property tax revenue.
Yamil Berard is a reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram – she's been following the issue and she explains the impact the glitch has had on schools.
Interview Highlights: Yamil Berard ...
... on how appraisal districts fund schools: "The Tarrant County Appraisal District is responsible for assessing properties in Tarrant County. And they basically value the price of your home, they value industrial properties, commercial properties, mineral rights, and other properties. In turn, school districts use those values and those taxes to fund their budgets. So, as a homeowner, I pay ad valorem taxes to my local school district and the school district uses that money to support their budget."
... on what went wrong: "Tarrant County Appraisal District has had a legacy computer system for 30 years. So in October 2014 they basically said 'OK, we're going to buy some new software and we are going to deploy it.' What often happens with software is that there are glitches when it's deployed and there are problems.
So the software caused delays in appraisals and the appraisal district had to play catchup and according to the local school districts, at least some of them, they weren't told that there were these delays until about maybe March or April when they started getting more preliminary figures about there appraisals.
They were shocked, they were dismayed, because they felt that there appraisals were going to go up 6 to 7 percent. We were just rocking and rolling in 2015 in Tarrant County and instead of getting 7 to 8 percent increases, they saw their appraisals flatten or they saw a 1, 2 or 3 percent increase. They were pretty much shocked because they thought that they were going to get a lot more revenue than what they got."
... on the scope of the problem: "This is a huge deal because school districts rely on this money to build their budgets. Of course they want the appraisals to go high because the higher the appraisals are the more money they get for the classroom to cover teacher raises. So this has to be correct and state law requires that appraisals be fair and equitable. Some districts are more upset about this problem than others. The Fort Worth school district, the Grapevine-Colleyville and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school districts, they are all very concerned. They believe that they lost millions of dollars that they could have recouped to support classrooms and students in their school districts."