Plan could help property taxes post Ike

Shoreacre, TX The damage may have lowered the value of your property, but what about the taxes you'll have to pay?

If you're strapped for cash as a result of Hurricane Ike damage and you're worried about making your property tax payment on time, you're in luck. You can now apply to make payments on the bill. But getting your damaged home reappraised depends entirely on whether the county, your city, your school district and others individually vote to do so.

Irene Mauldin, 75, is trying to figure out what to do about a 100 year old tree that still sits today on her First Ward home.

She's concerned not just about getting it out but also about having to pay her property taxes come January after footing the bill now for its removal.

"Because I don't have it all, I cannot pay it all at one time," she said.

To that end, Harris and Galveston Counties have rolled out a property tax payment plan allowing those with verified damage to pay their bills in four equal installments next January, March, May and July.

"So really what it does, it gives you a break on your cash flow," said Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt.

Getting your damaged property reappraised at a lower value is another issue entirely. Taxing entities are looking at each voting on whether they will do so, but each must individually vote on that.

"It would cost the county about $5 million to do this the initial savings for taxpayers would be about $5.3 million, but that would be only on the county's portion of the tax rates," said Bettencourt.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett calls disaster reappraisal, "a bit of a vexing problem right now."

That's because in some communities like the city of Shoreacres, reducing property taxes would mean such a significant loss in revenue.

"It would be disastrous for us," said David Stall of the city of Shoreacres.

Because 575 of the 650 homes there sustained damage and the city fears great financial struggles if it reappraised property values now with all this damage.

"To do that would take away the only revenue stream we have to help rebuild this city," Stall said.

It's a cost/benefit analysis that each entity must weigh. One being looked at now by Harris and Galveston Counties, Galveston and Dickinson ISD among others.

To learn more about the tax payment plan, contact your county's tax office.

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