Property owners receive tax appraisal notices
HARLINGEN — Across the county, property owners are opening up their mail and gawking at jumping property values.
That’s because rising values can mean more taxes.
Meanwhile, in cities from Harlingen to Brownsville, officials are counting on rising property values to drive up tax revenue.
In Cameron County, commercial properties are expected to help boost the area’s appraised values, Richard Molina, chief appraiser of the Cameron County Appraisal District, said last week.
“Commercial-wise, it’s probably going to be the biggest this year,” he said.
In the county, the district’s preliminary figures show Cameron County’s appraised values climbed to $22.4 billion, from $21 billion last year.
“Commercial has gone up overall county-wide,” Molina said.
In Harlingen, business and residential growth has increased the city’s overall market value by about $1 billion in the past 10 years.
The district’s preliminary figures show the city’s total appraised value climbed to $3.87 billion this year from $2.86 billion in 2009. Last year, the city’s total appraised value stood at $3.6 billion.
Last week, Mayor Chris Boswell pointed to business growth in the Harlingen Heights and Stuart Crossing areas and the expanding medical district as major drivers.
“That’s about 40-percent growth in 10 years,” Boswell said Friday. “That’s a big jump. That’s a great number. We’re seeing growth in several different sections.”
In Harlingen Heights, the appraisal district’s preliminary figures show Bass Pro Shops’ appraised value climbed to $11.2 million from $11.1 million last year.
Since Bass Pro Shops opened in 2011, businesses such as Sam’s Club, a Residence Inn by Marriott along with restaurants and shops have sprung up around the Interstate 69 interchange.
At Stuart Crossing, a new $10 million building serves as headquarters for Texas Regional Bank, which anchors a growing shopping district.
Meanwhile, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s medical school continues to expand across the medical district.
“Obviously, one of the big goals is to grow,” Boswell said. “When you tie what we know of new construction and commercial activity and the fact building permits are up, it’s a verification of what we’re seeing on the ground. That’s great. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish — a lot of growth.”
Jackson Street protesting
Downtown, property owners in the Jackson Street business district face some of the area’s steepest appraised value increases.
Along the five-block area, preliminary appraised values show average increases of about 47 percent.
Overall, appraisal property values jumped from $5.18 million to $7.62 million, marking an increase of $2.4 million along the five-block area.
Some property owners fear drastic increases will trigger tax hikes that could drive up merchants’ rents, forcing some out of business and leaving empty buildings.
Last week, property owner Bill DeBrooke launched his protest, contesting proposed values that would trigger as much as a $14,000 tax increase.
“I don’t know how I’m going to eat $12,000 to $14,000 in additional taxes,” DeBrooke, who owns several buildings, said. “I can eat some of it but I can’t eat all of it. I’ve got to pass it on.”
In San Benito, the appraisal district’s new preliminary figures show the city’s total appraised value climbed to $869 million from $822 million last year.
However, while properties in other areas in Cameron County jumped about 6 percent in market value, San Benito’s overall market value rose from 2 percent last year to 3.5 percent, Molina said.
But Molina pointed to AEP Texas’ new $24.5 million service station on 40 acres as helping boost the city’s tax base.
"That’s a commercial building — AEP could be a big contributor,” Molina said.
Molina also said new subdivisions are popping up in areas along the southern stretch of Stenger Road.
“It’s good to see new subdivisions coming up there,” he said. “It’s great to see that.”