Storm-damaged houses must get re-appraisal
This is as about as close to a no-brainer as any issue in the Texas Legislature this session: Should owners of storm-damaged houses be able to ask their appraisal district to reassess the value of their property, and thus have a lower property-tax bill?
Of course they should, and hard to imagine that bills to this effect keep coming up in the Legislature, but never make it to the governor’s desk.
Actually, there is a reason that happens. Local governments know that if properties were reappraised after a hurricane or major flood, valuations would clearly decrease and so would their tax revenues. So some cities, counties and school districts drag their feet on this obvious reform to keep the tax dollars rolling in.
That’s simply not fair, and it needs to change in this session.
Granted, this would present challenges for some local governments after a disaster. They too might have infrastructure damage that needs repairs — and the money to pay for it — so they don’t want to decrease their revenues. That’s understandable, but secondary to the needs of homeowners.
If their $100,000 house has been reduced in value to, say, a $40,000 structure, it will be a struggle for the owners to get back on their feet. The last thing they should have to deal with is a tax bill for a $100,000 home that no longer exists in that form.
As state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, put it, “We should not be kicking the taxpayer when they are down and they need help.”
It might be asking too much for appraisal districts to re-evaluate all properties after a major disaster. That’s a costly and time-consuming process. But the obvious compromise here is to give property owners the legal right to ask for a reappraisal after a disaster. Not all of them will, because some will have little or no damage. But those that have suffered major destruction would be able to get the appropriate adjustment from their appraisal district.
After Hurricane Harvey, just a portion of the 200,000 homes in 60 counties damaged by that storm benefited from reappraisals. That lack of governmental response can’t happen again, and the Legislature must address that need in this session.
Texans know that the Legislature won’t meet again in regular session until 2021. That’s far too long to wait for something this basic. A relief bill has passed the Senate and could be voted on by the House this week. It’s time to resolve this issue once and for all and move on to other challenges.