County commissioners on Monday turned down a plan to reappraise properties damaged by Hurricane Harvey, citing the expense of appraising the flooded homes.

The Galveston County Commissioners Court turned down on a 2-3 vote a proposal to ask the Galveston Central Appraisal District to reappraise all properties damaged by Harvey. Commissioners Darrell Apffel and Joe Giusti voted for the measure. Commissioners Ken Clark and Stephen Holmes and County Judge Mark Henry voted against it.

Apffel sponsored the measure at the urging of Tax Assessor Collector Cheryl Johnson, who has been advocating for reappraisals since the storm. Johnson argued that the issue was one of fairness in taxation. Homes and businesses should be reappraised to reflect the post-storm market values and the tax bill adjusted, she said.

“Disaster reappraisal matters to thousands of property owners across Galveston County,” Johnson said.

“Some say disaster reappraisal isn’t enough return for the cost, and yet not one person has disagreed that the concept, if the price is right, is good. The cost has been a distraction, a horrible distraction by the chief appraiser for what seems to be a job he’s determined not to do.”

But critics of the reappraisal worried about the cost of reappraising properties — estimated by the appraisal district at $22 per parcel — and the unforeseen consequences for local government budgets.

Homeowners will have an opportunity to protest their tax bills, and values will be reassessed by the district next year to reflect damage sustained by Harvey, Henry said.

The district has floated an across-the-board percentage decrease for people who can show damage, Henry said.

“My suggestion is we go through and let the January 1 date be our reassessment date,” Clark said. “The central appraisal district is going to go through that function anyway. It’s not going to cost us any additional dollars. Then we would know, when the rolls came out, how much the direct impact was to flooded property.”

Hurricane Harvey swamped regions of the county in late August, causing creeks to swell and flooding thousands of homes across Galveston County.

The appraisal district has a small staff and was still hearing protests, Chief Appraiser Tommy Watson said during a workshop on the issue. Adding the work might require hiring outside firms or contractors to do the reappraisals in that time frame, he said.

Commissioners also questioned how widespread reductions in values might affect budgets. The county didn’t have an estimate of how much it might cut into revenues for county services and projects that have been budgeted for, Holmes said.

“I find it hard to cast the vote so quickly on this with unanswered questions,” Holmes said. “I find it imprudent to try to move forward without knowing the answers to some of these questions.”

Apffel questioned the costs estimates from the district, saying that much of the work to reappraise the properties will have to be done for the 2018 tax year and appraisers are doing drive-by appraisals where they assess the value based on the exterior of the home in the Friendswood and Clear Creek school districts now, two of the hardest hit areas.

“If you’re out doing assessments, how can it not be reappraised at the same time?” Apffel said.

Appraisers can’t tell from driving by a home whether it had water damage inside, said Marcel Pierel, a chief deputy appraiser for the district.

League City council earlier this month voted down a similar measure.

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257;

Senior Reporter

(12) comments

Susan Walker

It will be easy at the poll on who needs to be replaced.

Diane Turski

Texas needs common sense property tax reform! I believe that a fairer tax system would be to tax property at the sales price of the home, allowing no more than a 2 percent annual increase in value. No need for annual appraisals and the resultant tax increases regardless whether the home owner can afford to pay the increased taxes or not. This would also make the budgeting projections more stable as well. The revenue needed to fund the government could be generated by a modest state income tax. A state income tax is based on income, not property value. Therefore, for example, if you are laid off from your job you will pay less in taxes. When relying on the annual increase in property appraisals and taxes, even if your income drops, you still have to pay the same taxes. I believe that replacing the steadily increasing property tax no based on ability to pay with a state income tax based on ability to pay is a fairer tax system. I have had experience working in states that have each of those systems, and this property tax system is the worst I've experienced.

Ken Hufstetler

Reappraisals for just a few months would be a mistake for two reasons. One, it will not make much difference on a tax bill. Two, every taxing entity in Galveston county has to cover unbudgeted expenses related to Harvey. Some may be covered by state or federal assistance, but there are still major expenses that we the local taxpayers have to fund. The additional reappraisal expense just adds more cost. As taxpayers, we all will have to pay for the additional unfunded expenses incurred by out taxing entities - County, City, School, Water, Drainage, etc. Vote out the incumbents if you want to, but their replacements will still have to come to the taxpayers to cover their share of the Harvey expenses. There is no way around that.

Ray Taft

Apparently, The Daily News is not aware of what's going on over at the Appraisal District.( Hurricane) Harvey Damage Reporting for Galveston Central Appraisal District. Homeowners can report damage then appeal their appraisals.

Commissioners Court brags about cutting taxes, but won't authorize reappraisals because it would cost the county money? Looks like Judge Henry and his ilk are all about saving the county money no matter what it costs taxpayers.

Gehrig Boone

Just another reason to leave this county when we are by a menagerie of misfits. I don’t know who is more crooked, the Kangaroo Court or the Taxing Tryants.

Jack Cross

Ray, it is not about saving the county money, it is about saving taxpayers money.
State law requires that CAD appraise in January 1. If your house burns down in January 2, you still have to pay 100 percent of the Jan 1 value. The state gives a special option to re appraise in areas declared a disaster area, but the Harvey struck the county 239 days into the year, that only leaves 126 days to be prorated. If you add reappraisal costs, it reduces the amount homeowners save plus blowing a hole in the budget. The plan the CAD has in place is best and it provides an end run around state law. If the CAD reappraises, it will be for 126 days and this most likely would occur in November & December. Your house will be appraised at the condition it is in at that time, not the way it looked right after Harvey. For instance, if your house has been restored at time of reappraisal, you get nothing, but you can get relief on the 2018 if you send the CAD pictures and estimates now. It makes no sense to re appraise. I expect the CAD to make blanket adjustments for homes located in flood zones. However, sales are what sets home values, that means even if the CAD makes adjustments for homes located in flood zones and people keep buying these homes at inflated prices because they want to live by water, Appraisals will remain high. It’s not the CADs fault, this is state law they are mandated by law and there are penalties if they don't follow the law of appraisals that is clearly defined.
Mr. Boone, I have had issues with county government, but they have had reasonable tax rates more so than all other taxing bodies. The County gives a 60,000 exemption to homesteads. They have set the tax rate at the effective tax rate which is the rate that provided the same amount of revenue as the previous year. While this is not totally true because it does not include new construction, few other taxing units go this low. Also the County tax rate has went down not up, The rate is down to where it was in 2008. In fairness the county has been aided by a lot of new growth.

Ron Shelby

Its likely that "reappraisals" would have had to be prorated to the storm. There would be some savings to those taxpayers, but it would not be huge for most, and would come back to bite in the end when next years rates had to be raised (or services cut) to make up for the shortfall created in the current year budget. Not to mention, I doubt that CAD would be able to get it done in time which would make a total mess of tax collections and cash flows for all entities from county to school district. As for the cost, I seem to remember that there are something like 175,000 parcels in Galveston County. If that is what the GDN per parcel amount is based on, that results in a $3.5M bill that someone has to pick up (....look at it as a current year tax increase being pressed by proponents....). Really doesn't make sense to do. GDN really should have gotten the total cost number to this more into perspective....otherwise it looked like a "nothing" costs...which it's not.

Carol Dean

Ron, did you move back to the county???

Michael McNeely

Why not just reduce the tax rate. No appraisal needed. Almost everyone suffered from Harvey, either at the home or work.

PD Hyatt

If al the stupid CAD people do is sit in their cars and drive by then why do they even get paid? They need to look at our yards for mine will still be in a mess from all the debris that was in it and still is as the grass is dead and that part of the yard is a mess from the 1st pass that they did in collecting our trash.... What is sad is that by the time that the CAD drivers get around to looking our house should be finished. So I guess people like me will get nothing.... As far as all of the taxing entities taking a hit from Harvey? I all I can is so what.... Do they think that We didn't take a hit because of Harvey? All I can see is more and more taxing with less and less representation....

Jack Cross

P.D. The CAD people are not stupid, they are a very efferent group. It is impossible to visit the thousands of homes in this or any county. CADs use mass appraisals. It is sales that drive appraisals. The CAD uses sales in a neighborhood and then uses adjustment to level out the neighborhood, some of the data points are sq foot, class, condition effective year. These adjustments are made by a computer program. Information is added when building permits are pulled. The CAD has a state of the art air photo program. The appraiser can see the property and the computer scree will accurately measure it. Appraiser are in the field to view, photograph and inspect new construction. The state of Texas through the comptrollers office oversees CADs, they audit CADs, they go into the field and check the sales and compare them against the CADs values and if they are 95 percent of market value, the state tells the CAD to jack up the appraisals. The state has a vested interest in keeping the appraisal at market value ( sales adjusted) the reason is because the higher the appraisal the less money the state sends to the school districts. The CAD can not raise your taxes, never have and never will. The state gives this responsibility to your elected officials of the taxing units. The CAD serves as the whipping boy to absorb the anger for following state law (mandated by force) Isn't is strange that no one shows up at city hall, a mud district, community college or the county when the tax rate is set that determines how much taxes you pay.

JD Arnold

Thanks Jack for a clear and precise explanation of the process.

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