Dallas County tax offices pass state audits

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 13, 2003

The good stories sometimes get overlooked.

The Dallas County Tax Assessor and Tax Collector offices were audited by the state recently. Both passed with flying colors.

Both offices are located on the first floor of the County Courthouse. King’s office sits next to the Tax Assessor’s office, which is run by Frances Hughes. Even their phone numbers are just one digit apart.

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King and Hughes are friends, and they share a good working relationship.

There is one thing the two friends disagree on, though: where to set the thermostat their respective offices share. &uot;They’re always hot and we’re always cold,&uot; grumbles King.

Hughes’ office assesses taxes on real and personal property, including land, buildings, furniture and equipment. King’s office collects those taxes.

King and her staff also collect manufactured housing registration fees and handle all land redemption cases, in which property has been sold to settle overdue taxes.

King estimates her office handles more than 19,000 ad valorem accounts and another 2,500 manufactured housing registrations. Most of those accounts are conducted by mail. But more than a few come down to the courthouse in person to pay their taxes.

While it varies according to the time of year, it’s not uncommon for King and her staff of two to handle 100 walk-ups a day. &uot;The last week of December (the deadline for ad valorem taxes), we get as many as 200 or 300 a day,&uot; she says.

Most of those people are courteous and polite; some are down right rude. King and her staff have learned to take it all in stride.

Over on the tax assessor side, Hughes and her staff also get their share of disgruntled taxpayers &045; but they try not to let it ruin their day, either. Hughes has worked in the office for 33 years, and she still looks forward to coming to work each day.

She started out in 1971 as &uot;the lowest person on the totem pole&uot; and slowly worked her way up. When Dale Curry retired as tax assessor six years ago, the County Commission appointed Hughes to fill his term. She was elected to her first outright term in 2002 without opposition.

The office of tax assessor is charged with mapping, locating, discovering and assessing all real and personal property within the confines of Dallas County.

Hughes and her staff of 10 people assess more than $7 million dollars in taxes each year. But the office of tax assessor does more than just figure out how much you owe every year. The entire county has been mapped, down to every lot of every suburb. A few years ago, it was all digitized and put on computer.

Now that all that the information has been digitized, Hughes and her staff are working to link the mapping and appraisal aspects with a geographic information system. When they’re finished, they’ll be able to print out information about flood plains and sewer lines and power lines for the entire county.

Hughes is more than a little proud of her office’s recent audit results. Although she’s survived 33 audits over the years, she admits it’s a little more nerve-wracking when you’re the person in charge.

Her staff members are: chief clerk Weida Sheehan, Rhonda Abbott, Linda King, John Tims, Debbie Hughey, Mike Carter, Greg Mosley, Nancy Robbins, Mattie Cargill and Shelby Hutcheson.

Over on the tax assessor’s side, King is assisted by chief clerk Bernadine Rembert and tax clerk Tonya Robbins.

Sometimes the good stories get overlooked.