More commercial property owners filing lawsuits against Jefferson County Appraisal District
Published 4:44 pm Friday, October 1, 2021
Now that the dust is settling from the 2021 tax appraisals in Jefferson County, a number of commercial property owners are taking their challenges to court. The Jefferson County Appraisal District (JCAD) caused quite a stir this year assessing many of the Jefferson County business owners with new assessments that were double, triple and quadruple over the valuations set in years past. The laws on contesting these appraisals dropped these issues back into the hands of the appraisal district to volunteer any reductions in the new assessments or force the property owners into an “appeal board” tribunal before they could sue over the issue. That process frustrated many property owners who didn’t really understand the mechanics involved or who to contact for assistance. For those who did go through the procedure, the results were mixed, at best, with the JCAD hanging tough on most contested assessments. The volunteer appeals board members were generally reticent to side with the property owners in these disputes. Nonetheless, some determined property owners went through the required process and are now free to file formal lawsuits contesting these new valuations. The window to challenge the final determination of JCAD is limited, and expires on or about October 4, 2021 for most challenges.
Attorney Brent Coon and the Beaumont branch of his law firm filed the first salvo against JCAD a couple of weeks ago, alleging the new formulas utilized by the JCAD were unprecedented, unsupportable factually, and violated tax code statutes. Since then, a number of other property owners from across the county have joined in that lawsuit, with an amended complaint adding over a dozen new plaintiffs being filed today and another being filed next Monday with at least a dozen more.
“What the Jefferson County Appraisal District did to a number of hard working local business owners this time around is a clearly unconscionable money grab. There was ZERO factual support for any of these huge increases in assessments. These properties for the most part have been around for decades and had a consistent history of appraisals that mirrored values of comparable properties that sold each year, which is the best benchmark for valuation. Although there has been no change in local sales prices, there was an exponential and arbitrary increase in the valuations of many of the commercial properties throughout the county, some increasing by over 1,000 percent. How in the world is a property that has been fairly valued for about one million dollars for several years all the sudden worth TEN MILLION DOLLARS or more? The JCAD had zero evidence to support these huge new valuations and if left unchallenged, would succeed in driving these local business investors out of the county with excessive taxation. Jefferson County hasn’t grown in 50 years because of this kind of irresponsible governance. We are going to force transparency in this process and fully expose everyone at the JCAD who had any involvement and support to this insane new valuation protocol,” says Brent Coon.
One of the property owners to the lawsuit is well known investor Tom Flanagan, who owns a number of commercial properties throughout the county and arguably the largest commercial property owner in downtown Beaumont.
Mr. Flanagan says, “We were surprised and stunned at the actions taken by the Jefferson County Appraisal District and other local leaders to raise taxes (without a vote or even an input from the public) on Jefferson County property owners. Although most homes went up 25% – 35% property in downtown Beaumont went up 600% – 1000%! There was no justifiable market factor considered nor was there any factual support for these huge increases and assessments. Because of this it seems that there was an intentional effort.”
“This is an unconscionable money grab on the part of Jefferson County Appraisal District and our local leaders.”
“Downtown Beaumont is one of the most important areas of Southeast Texas and actions taken by the Jefferson County Appraisal District and other local leaders would render downtown unviable for future investment or any kind of other improvement other than government.”
“We have invested in downtown for over 30 years having saved numerous historic structures from demolition. We believe that downtown Beaumont has a bright future and are stunned at the situation. Jefferson County hasn’t grown in 50 years because of this kind of irresponsible governance.”
“We are seeking transparency in this process and want to determine everyone who has been involved in this process. We are not aware of anywhere in the country that has had this large of a tax increase at one time and we are extremely disappointed and shocked and frustrated. We have worked with JCAD through a painstaking process and have been able to get them to agree on reductions on some of their inflated assessments but not all. Brent and I and other concerned investors have been working together for months on this problem. Our primary goal in joining this lawsuit is to effect a change in this unfair process and to create more equality and transparency for everyone in the community and to continue to develop downtown Beaumont into everything that it can be,” said Mr. Flanagan.