Diligent HCAD civil servants find tax break for Mayor
In the latest Houston Press, Richard Connelly reports that in 2007, Mayor White received a pleasant surprise in the form of his property tax bill:
Houston accountant Tim Hebert is pissed about his property taxes. So he decided to do a little research at the Harris County Appraisal District Web site.
And there he learned that in 2007, while his taxes were going up, Mayor Bill White's Memorial-area home had gotten a huge tax break, with the assessment falling from about $2.8 million to about $1.8 million.
White's neighbors hadn't gotten the same break, just the mayor.
HCAD told Hebert the change came because new maps placed White's home in a floodplain, but that didn't make much sense — only his house was in the new floodplain? Hebert showed that other houses should have been affected by the new map as well.
"I don't have any personal beef with the Mayor," Hebert says, "but I hate the fact that the rest of us are getting slammed with ever-higher property taxes while His Honor gets a reduction of damn near $1,000,000."
Jason Cunningham, HCAD's residential property director, says, essentially, mistakes were made. Both in telling Hebert the reduction was because of a floodplain map, and in assessing White's house so high in the first place.
White, he says, has simply been the victim of "extreme overvaluing for years."
"These are very difficult areas to appraise," he says. "What we are really doing is correcting an error. It was just wrong."
Cunningham says an appraiser noted the value of White's home was too high during an overall look at the neighborhood. The homes of White's neighbors, he says, were more accurate and didn't need to be changed significantly.
Isn't it nice that our local civil servants worked so diligently to make sure hizzoner's property taxes were reduced? For the sake of accuracy. And not because he's a prominent pol. We're sure they work just as hard to give everyone a break.
In fact, if you've received such a nice break from HCAD in the last few years (out of the blue, not as a result of protest), please send me an email (publiustx-at-gmail.com). We'll append your success story to the post (but will remove your name for purposes of privacy). Who says we never post good news? I just hope the gmail server can handle the crush!
UPDATE (02-22-2008): The Chronicle's Matt Stiles has a straight news story on the topic, noting that thousands of Houston landowners can expect similar reductions because of changes in federal and local floodway regulations. We remain ready to post all such good news that we receive via email (to date, we have not received any)!