Officials wait to see if Harvey strains Pearland, Friendswood property values

Hurricane Harvey brought historical flooding to Pearland and Friendswood, as documented by residents of the area.

Hurricane Harvey brought historical flooding to Pearland and Friendswood, as documented by residents of the area.

Image description
As properties undergo reappraisal process, Harvey could squeeze area tax revenues
Over the next several months, as tax appraisers calculate the effect that Hurricane Harvey wrought on the value of thousands of homes and businesses in Brazoria and Galveston counties, budget officers and administrators for cities, counties and school districts can do nothing but wait.

“The appraisal district is conducting a reappraisal for 2018—just as we do every year. The major difference is areas impacted by Harvey are being prioritized,” said Cheryl Evans, chief appraiser for the Brazoria County Appraisal District.

As of mid-January, about 14,500 parcels had been re-evaluated solely due to the damage caused by Harvey, she said.

That there could be a decrease in tax revenue seems likely, but many officials are in a wait-and-see mode.

“Yes, it is a concern,” Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta said. “But it’s very early in the process and too early to say how things will go. … We really won’t know until we get the number.”

Some homes may be fully restored while others are in various stages of repair or are a total loss, Sebesta said. Also, homes that did not flood could increase in value.

“We had close to 13,000 homes that received water, from half an inch to 8 feet. Those improvement values will come off the rolls,” he said.

Reappraisal process


Property taxes are dependent on two variables: values and tax rates. Values are set by the appraisal districts; rates are determined by each individual taxing entity, such as a school board or a city council.

The Brazoria County appraiser alone services 75 taxing entities, from the city of Pearland to the Treasure Island MUD—all of which stand to lose revenue if the values of their tax base take a hit—and if they hold tax rates flat.

Because storm damage and flooding is a factor this year, homeowners should collect photos and records of damage and work done by contractors, Galveston County Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson said. If repairs are underway or finished, homeowners should work with their contractor to determine what the status of the property was as of Jan. 1.

Preliminary value notices should go out to property owners in April. Then the protest period begins, with May 15 as the deadline to file an appeal.

The final numbers are not certified until June or July; then governments can take a hard look at their budgets.

Tighten the belt or raise taxes?


“Every single government will be impacted,” Johnson said. Her office collects revenue for over 35 different entities, including the city of Friendswood. “It will be good for all the governments to step back … maybe all of us need to look at reductions.”

Governments can raise the tax rate to make up for losses, but officials have said this is not the right time for increases. It would also buck the trend: Both Galveston and Brazoria counties have been lowering tax rates for years.

“I’m really proud that here, we’ve lowered the tax rate 6 cents over the last three years—that’s an almost 12 percent cut,” Sebesta said.

That has been possible in part because the county has a housing shortage, he said, which has kept home values—and revenue—high.

School districts have also benefited from rising home values but would be sensitive to a decline in funding.

“We would tighten our belts,” said Connie Morgenroth, Friendswood ISD’s chief financial officer. “We would look at raises, for example, and instead of giving X percent, we give Y percent.”

School districts have one other variable to consider: the state’s matching funds, which are inversely based on the previous year’s property taxes after they are certified by the Texas comptroller.

In other words, if property taxes are high, the state will give less funding the following year. So in a year when tax revenue falls, it would take the state a full year to balance it out.

However, the commissioner of education has the ability to mitigate a shortfall by using funds set aside for districts affected by a state of disaster, but no decision has been made on whether that will be needed, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency said.


MOST RECENT

(Courtesy Main Squeeze Juice)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: Main Squeeze Juice now open and more business, development news

Here is a roundup of business and development news from the Pearland and Friendswood area.

Pearland ISD announced meals will be offered every school day to all students at no cost for the 2021-22 school year. (Community Impact Staff)
Pearland ISD to offer meals to all students at no cost for upcoming school year

Pearland ISD announced meals will be offered every school day to all students at no cost for the 2021-22 school year.

School supplies will be exempt from the 8.25% sales tax Aug. 6-8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What to know before the statewide tax-free weekend Aug. 6-8

Customers will not have to pay the standard 8.25% sales tax on select clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks under $100.

(Courtesy Black Rock Coffee Bar)
Black Rock Coffee Bar now open in Webster

Black Rock Coffee Bar opened in mid-July.

Main Chick Hot Chicken opened its first brick-and-mortar location July 23 in Sugar Land. (Courtesy Main Chick Hot Chicken)
Main Chick Hot Chicken opens in Sugar Land; Urban Bird Hot Chicken coming to Cy-Fair and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news for the Houston area, including two new chicken restaurants.

HCA Houston Healthcare President Troy Villarreal, Pearland Mayor Kevin Cole and HCA Houston Healthcare Vice President of Clinical Education Diane Henry all spoke at the grand opening on July 27.
HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement opens in Pearland Town Center

HCA Houston Healthcare opened the HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement, or HHCCA, on July 27.

Houston-area residents will be able to apply online for a one-time payment of $1,500 from July 28-Aug. 11. (File photo)
$30M COVID Relief Fund opens for Harris County residents as eviction moratorium ends

Sourced by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, eligible residents will receive a one-time payment of $1,500 to support urgent needs.

Pride Houston Parade
Pride Houston fall parade and festival canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

The downtown annual parade and festival, scheduled for Sept. 25, will be replaced by a Montrose block party and other events, organizers announced July 25.

The CDC reversed its masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals in response to the transmissibility of the delta variant of COVID-19 in a press conference July 27. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
NEW CDC GUIDANCE: All individuals should wear masks in K-12 schools, including those who are fully vaccinated

The new CDC guidance, announced July 27, also recommends people in areas with "high" or "substantial" levels of transmission wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Texas Medical Center coronavirus updates: Average testing positivity rate nears 10% after sharp increase

Over 97% of people nationwide who are being hospitalized because of the disease are unvaccinated.

Six Friendswood citizens were honored in Hope Village's fundraiser. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hope Village honors residents from 12 Houston-area cities in 'Faces of Hope' fundraiser

Nominees received yard signs that were out on lawns for approximately two weeks in July.