Hardin Co. residents battling home appreciation

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LUMBERTON – Hardin Counties are organizing.

Your goal? The exploding real estate values ​​and the resulting increased tax burden are skyrocketing.

Around 50 residents gathered in Lumberton City Park on Sunday afternoon to learn more about what drove property values ​​to this point and to find ways to stop the increases.

The group was led by Lamar Associated Professor of Management Kelly Weeks, who initially introduced herself as the “average homeowner” who is also concerned about the changes.

It is a study that is carried out every two years by the Texas Comptroller to determine whether the values ​​assessed are correct for an area.

In Texas, it is typically not possible for homesteads that have not undergone major renovations to increase estimated values ​​by more than 10% in any given year.

However, if property values ​​have been reduced as a result of a natural disaster, a district can use the values ​​prior to the disaster and add 10% to that total.

In addition, the auditor’s study found that five counties in southeast Texas, including Hardin County, rated real estate lower than the state considers appropriate.

While each county’s assessment district doesn’t have to follow the auditor’s study, the state can threaten to withhold its portion of school funding if the county’s scores are too far below the state’s recommendation.

Weeks called the threat “subversive” and one gathered audience said it was closer to “blackmail”.

In both cases, Weeks and others said the evaluation district should have done more to show Austin that the values ​​in the study were incorrect for that area.

“Why are we (the review district) doing this stuff when it just comes down to what the controller says?” Weeks asked. He said he invited a representative from the judging district office to attend the meeting, but they did not.

Weeks and other residents voiced a number of potential long-term solutions to the problem, from abolishing property taxes entirely to imposing a district penalty if they were to raise property taxes by more than 10% in any given year.

At short notice, Weeks and other organizers distributed a registration form during the meeting to assess who might be interested in a class action lawsuit. He noted that he had already had a few meetings with local lawyers.

James Slaydon, professor of finance at Lamar, also suggested the group post a petition on social media to gauge interest from people who support the cause but may not have turned out to meet in person.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who support them … but for some reason they couldn’t get out,” he said.

He also suggested that any interested residents protest their property values ​​in order to “clog the system”.

The official appeal period has expired, but Weeks said there was some flexibility in the process due to extenuating circumstances.

“When we start giving them problems? The squeaky wheel gets the grease, ”said Tony Robertson, a resident who attended the forum and was previously a member of the evaluation committee.

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