In the midst of the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief paid a visit to Houston to discuss interim charges given to them by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Discussion revolved around two issues: disaster reappraisals for properties damaged by Harvey, and the possible use of funds from Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones for disaster recovery.
The committee, which is chaired by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), also includes Senators Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Kelly Hancock (R-North Richmond Hills), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), and Van Taylor (R-Plano).
During the hearing, Bettencourt compared local government entities that had approved the reappraisal of homes damaged by Harvey to those that had refused to do so:
“This really is a tale of two cities,” said Bettencourt. “I commend the taxing jurisdictions that have triggered disaster reappraisal and continue my call on other taxing entities to do the right thing for taxpayers and give these homeowners a break.”
A number of local governments have voted to reappraise homes damaged by Harvey, including Montgomery County, Conroe ISD, Fort Bend County, Spring Branch ISD, Katy ISD, and others. Glaringly absent from the list are the City of Houston, Harris County, and Houston ISD, all of whom have so far refused to give property tax relief to hurricane victims.
By refusing reappraisals, these taxing entities are forcing hurricane victims to be taxed at the same value as what their property was worth before Harvey, even if their home was completely destroyed.
“People feel abandoned,” said Galveston County Tax Assessor Collector Cheryl Johnson. “They feel like government doesn’t care.”
The committee also looked into the idea of using TIRZ funds for disaster recovery. According to Bettencourt’s office, additional hearings will be held throughout the year on a wide range of other property tax issues.