By guest writer Lloyd Criss
Local homeowners receive an automatic property-tax increase every year in which the county’s central appraisal district increases the assessment value of their property. In 2015, the average countywide CAD assessed property value increased by 12 per cent.
More affluent homes throughout the county received much higher assessment increases. Some on west Galveston Island increased by $150,000. Many others went up by $40,000, $50,000 or even more.
At the same time, carefully placed loopholes in Texas property-tax laws make it impossible for the CAD to accurately assess the fair market value of large corporate or industrial property. These loopholes were placed into the state’s property-tax laws at the direction of influential lobbyists representing wealthy industrial clients.
Through the manipulation of these advantages in law, local industry has taken the local CAD to court and has been awarded multi-million-dollar property-tax refunds from local government coffers. In recent decisions, oil companies Marathon and Valero received reimbursements of $4.8m and $3.9m respectively.
Especially financially hard hit by these massive tax reimbursements were Texas City, Texas City independent school district, College Of The Mainland and Galveston County. Each of those taxing entities was left with the options of curtailing services or increasing the local taxpayer burden.
The Texas constitution provides for fair and equitable taxation for all. The city of Austin filed a lawsuit in state court requesting the state property-tax laws meet constitutional compliance. Regardless of what or when the court rules, the issue must ultimately return to the state legislature for final action and correction.
In the last legislative session, several bills were filed seeking to create equity for the local property-tax payer. Former state representative Sylvester Turner, now the mayor of Houston, filed one of them. All conveniently died in committee.
Unfortunately for the local taxpayer the current Texas legislator seem happy to maintain the status quo. By ignoring constitutional responsibilities to the electorate, they are keeping powerful lobby representatives happy and qualifying for large re-election campaign contributions.
This taxpayer inequity cannot and will not be settled in state court. It must be corrected by an informed and irate electorate, one that votes to demand its constitutional rights for “fair and equitable” taxation.
Lloyd Criss, a former chairman of Galveston Democratic Party, lives in La Marque and is the party’s candidate for the state house of representatives’ district 23 seat in this year’s general election.