City Blames State Of Texas For Inequities In Commercial Property Taxing

Williams Tower photo from flickr, taken by MRio
Houston homeowners are calling on Houston City Council to fix what they call a broken tax appraisal system that gives huge tax cuts to big commercial buildings. The council admits the property tax loopholes are a problem, but that lawmakers in Austin are the only ones who can fix it.

There was not a vacant seat at city hall. Residents wanted to let Mayor Annise Parker and Council know they are not happy with the long standing practice of undervaluing commercial buildings for property tax purposes.

Daniel Box with the Houston Organization of Public Employees says there are many several high-end commercial buildings that are outrageously under appraised.

"One is the Williams Tower over there in the Galleria. It sold on the market for $412 million, but it was only appraised at 227 million. That's almost 50 percent deduction. Well, you can see how that's costing everybody by them being able to lower that appraisal, and us not being able to pay their fair share, basically."

He says the city's top 500 buildings have cost the city and the Houston School District over $1.5-billion since 2005 — money that could have prevented loss in cuts to parks, libraries and city services.

Mayor Parker knows the inequity exists where commercial properties pay pennies on the dollar in taxes.

"The problem is not the Harris County Appraisal District. The problem is that state law only allows essentially the bricks and sticks to be valued, not the rental rates, because state law doesn't take into account the other elements of what values a downtown commercial property."

The mayor says until state lawmakers change the system, the city has been meeting with the Harris County Appraisal District on how to fairly value commercial property so that it's tied to what the market value is.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...