It is strange to consider that six months have passed since the United States declared a national emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
At this point, appraisers have mostly determined “how to” inspect and collect data during a pandemic. We are now firmly in the next phase, “how to” determine if there has been an impact to market values and what that impact might be.
After a short pause during the staff’s transition to working from home, the Board learned “how to” keep moving forward. We continue to hold regular committee meetings; in May, we conducted our board meeting via video conference for the very first time.
Work Files for Trainee Audits
Governor Abbott has asked all state agencies to reduce barriers to entry into professions and to decrease the regulatory burden for existing license holders both of which perfectly align with my goals for my time on the Board.
When I joined the Board last September, the Board was already in the process of several policy changes to remedy the trainee experience audit backlog. This backlog was exacerbated in mid 2018 by the prolonged difficulty in filling a staff investigator position as well as AQB changes to license requirements. The Budget Committee and Enforcement Committee adopted several initiatives over the past 24 months to approach the backlog holistically.
The Enforcement Committee discussed options at several committee meetings with input from stakeholders. In August 2018, the Board piloted a large scale contract reviewer program to outsource commercial experience audits. The program was successful, and it was expanded in 2019. I am pleased to report that as of May 31, 2020 there were 18 open experience audits, down from 78 in May 2019, while processing times have been reduced by 50%.
The Enforcement Committee’s other recent initiative consisted of examining the depth of scope for the experience audits. After reviewing the ASC’s requirements and seeking input from AQB board members as well as stakeholders, the committee determined that requesting work files with work product submission was mostly unnecessary to check for minimal USPAP compliance. As of June 30, work files were no longer automatically requested for submission as part of the experience verification process. The committee will be considering whether to make this a permanent change in the procedures for audits.
To fund the contract reviewer program, as well as increase staffing needs to handle the increase in caseloads, the Budget Committee worked diligently to present the Board with funding. This resulted in a recent increase in license fees, but please be aware that we are exploring every opportunity to reduce fees without impacting our ability to serve our license holders in an efficient and timely manner. This is even more important now as we consider the financial impact the pandemic has put on license holders.
We are always searching for additional ways to better serve both our license holders and the people of the great state of Texas. Our next Board meeting is on Friday, August 21, and we welcome your input and participation as we forge ahead in serving this valued profession.