Conroe - Montgomery Edition | June 2020

GOVERNMENT Conroemayor sues county over appraisals

THE CASE SO FAR Conroe Mayor Toby Powell filed a lawsuit against Montgomery County entities asking for property tax relief in light of the economic effects of coronavirus closures.

APRIL 14

MAY 15

Powell says in a news release that the suit asks for reappraisal of property in the county based on recent economic hardships. MAY 19

Montgomery County Commissioners Court votes to defend the lawsuit. MAY 26

Scheduled hearings on appraisal protests begin. MAY 27

Montgomery Central Appraisal District sends notices of appraised value to homeowners.

Mayor Toby Powell files a class- action lawsuit against Montgomery County Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski and Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae for property tax relief.

BY ANDY LI

SOURCES: TOBY POWELL, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MONTGOMERY CENTRAL APPRAISAL DISTRICT/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Conroe Mayor Toby Powell filed a class-action lawsuit against Mont- gomery County tax officials in May to provide property tax relief for residents facing economic hardships amid the coronavirus pandemic. Powell, who is running for re-elec- tion in November, said no city funds will be spent on the lawsuit against Montgomery County Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski and Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae, but as an elected official, he felt it was the only way to help Montgomery County citizens. “What we are asking for in this lawsuit is for the appraisal district to re-appraise all of the property in the county based on what has happened to our economy over the last few months,” Powell said. According to data from the Mont- gomery Central Appraisal District, the average market value of active homesteads in the county has gone from $192,486 in 2010 to $297,639 in 2020, a 50% increase. In the city of Conroe, values went from $140,048 in 2010 to $242,970 in 2020, a 73% increase. Belinoski said in a released statement his office is concerned about the hardship Montgomery County residents are facing and has explored potential solutions with the Texas comptroller’s and gover- nor’s offices.

“TAMMYMCRAE DOESN’T HAVE THE AUTHORITY VESTED INHER BY THE PEOPLE NOR BY THE

“ I ASKYOU [GOV. GREG ABBOTT] TO TAKE ALL THE STEPSWITHINYOUR POWER TORELIEVE OUR COMMUNITYOF THE BURDENOF THESE CLEARLY EXCESSIVE VALUATIONS, INCLUDING IF NECESSARY, SUMMONING THE LEGISLATURE TOA SPECIAL SESSION.” TOBY POWELL, CONROE MAYOR

CONSTITUTION TOPROVIDE THAT TYPE OF RELIEF, AND AGODDANGMAYOROF A CITY IN THIS COUNTY SHOULDKNOWTHAT.” JAMES NOACK, MONTGOMERY COUNTY PRECINCT 3 COMMISSIONER

“The conclusion reached by all was that any changes to the process would require legislative action,” Belinoski said. Homestead exemptions Following the announcement of the lawsuit, Conroe City Council approved a 2.5% homestead exemption pro- posed by Powell at a May 28 meeting. That would save a homeowner of a $100,000 home in Conroe an addi- tional $10.93 per year. Montgomery County commission- ers discussed the lawsuit with the county attorney during executive session at the May 26 Commissioners Court meeting. When they returned to the regular session, the commissioners voted to defend that lawsuit, meaning they will present a legal defense in response to Powell’s demands.

and proclaimed that I’m going to give everybody in Montgomery County tax relief, and I’d have been a hero, but knowing all along I couldn’t do that, so we didn’t do that,” Riley said. “He knew better, and he did it anyway.” Montgomery County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador said the Texas comptroller, the Legisla- ture and Abbott have the power to provide relief. In a letter sent May 27 to Abbott, Powell asked for recognition of the economic effects of the ongoing pandemic. “I ask you to take all the steps within your power to relieve our community of the burden of these clearly excessive valuations, including if necessary, summoning the Legislature to a special session,” Powell said.

“I think the word ‘defend’ is kind of ludicrous considering the lawsuit is baseless, and they’re suing the wrong dang people,” Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said. “Tammy McRae doesn’t have the authority vested in her by the people nor by the Consti- tution to provide that type of relief, and a god dang mayor of a city in this Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said to provide relief, Gov. Greg Abbott would have to call a special legis- lative session into order. Property tax relief could be created through legislation, which would then be approved by public vote. “I could’ve done just like Mayor Powell—I could’ve come out here county should know that.” Legislative action needed

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