Residents whose homes were damaged as a result of Hurricane Harvey may see some relief on their annual tax bills following requests from taxing entities to reappraise home values in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution in September calling for the inspections of residential property damaged as a result of flooding from Harvey in late August.

Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal said he wanted to offer reappraisals because he did not feel comfortable asking county taxpayers to pay more than their houses are now worth.

“I’m having a hard time sending somebody a full tax bill for a house that’s unusable, so we’d like to get the appraisal district to reappraise those homes, at least for this year,” Doyal said.

Tax relief

According to Section 23.02 of the Texas Tax Code, the county is eligible for reappraisal following a disaster declaration, which was declared by Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 25.

For homes with new appraisal values, property taxes will be prorated—or changed to reflect the new property value—from the time of the disaster until the end of the year. The move could result in partial tax refunds for some residents, Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae said. However, the updated values only apply to taxing entities who approve the reappraisal process following the disaster.

Conroe, Montgomery and The Woodlands Township each approved reappraisals for affected residents on Oct. 11, Oct. 10 and Sept. 21, respectively.

Following initial assessments from the Montgomery Central Appraisal District in January, approximately 242 homes in Conroe saw significant water damage that could affect property values. During the Oct. 11 meeting, Conroe officials said they wanted to provide some relief to local residents. The total cost to the city will not be determined until affected properties have been reappraised.

“The overall cost to the city of Conroe would be minimal to do this,” Conroe Chief Financial Officer Steve Williams said. “The number that [Tammy McRae] is estimating would be $500 to $600 for the city in terms of administering this, that would be reappraisal [fees] as well as sending the notices.”

While Montgomery officials report no significant damage to homes in the city, City Administrator Jack Yates said the City Council approved the measure to make the option available to residents.

“The council felt that few property owners would qualify for the reappraisals since we have not heard any reports of damage, and they felt that the availability of the reappraisals would be the most liberal way of approaching the issue by leaving the possibility open for property owners,” Yates said.

Willis ISD also approved the measure during its Oct. 11 meeting. Conroe ISD removed its resolution from its Sept. 19 board meeting agenda, but approved the measure during its Oct. 17 meeting. Montgomery ISD also approved the measure on Oct. 17.

“Joining the reappraisals is the right thing to do, even if it costs Willis ISD money,” WISD Superintendent Tim Harkrider said.

MCAD Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski said appraisers are already evaluating changes in value for homes as part of the district’s regular process in preparation for the 2018 tax year. He said reappraisals would provide some relief this year to residents directly affected by the storm, but flood damage could have an effect on values for the surrounding areas in the coming years.

“We started looking at the properties prior to the commissioners passing the resolution because anytime a property is damaged—especially due to flooding—it affects their market value going forward,” Belinoski said.

McRae said while there is no official deadline to request reappraisals, entities should request to be included soon to streamline the process of sending new tax statements and any potential refunds.

“I reached out to every taxing jurisdiction collected by the Montgomery County Tax Office, and I asked them to take action by Nov. 15—if possible—only because by doing that, the county has already authorized it, and our appraisal district is already on top of it,” McRae said.

Homeowner options

Belinoski said MCAD has already started compiling data on the damage and expects to complete surveying the area by mid-to-late November.

Because residents have already begun cleanup and repair work, flood damage may not be easily visible for MCAD appraisers. Belinoski said homeowners are encouraged to fill out a survey available on the MCAD website, detailing water levels and the extent of damage received in their homes.

While reappraisals have already started, MCAD does not expect to have them completed before tax bills are sent to homeowners in mid-October, so corrected bills will need to be sent later in the year, McRae said. Belinoski said once reappraised values are certified, perhaps by the end of the year, affected homeowners will have 30 days to protest the new values as well.

“When the tax statements go out, they will be for that full value,” McRae said. “Hopefully by [early] to mid-December, we will send corrected tax statements. For those people that have already paid their property taxes, we will automatically issue refund checks back to them for the difference for [the taxing entities].”

In addition to reappraisals, the Montgomery County Community Development Office is working to launch a buyout program for homes affected by the 2016 floods, said Jim Fredricks, chief of staff for Doyal’s office. However, buyout funds are not available yet for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“We are taking the names of any interested parties and will notify them and the public should the federal government authorize funds for buyouts in Montgomery County,” he said.