The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, September 11 – Local businessman Dennis Tibbs spoke at the September 8, 2020, Special Meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court and drew the ire of three of the five Court members – Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, County Judge Mark Keough, and Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts – when Tibbs accused them of getting favorable treatment on their own property tax appraisals from the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD).
Tibbs told the members of the Commissioners Court:
“Dennis Tibbs, Magnolia. I’d like to make some comments concerning the taxes and the appraisal system…We got our new appraisals for 2020 a couple of months ago. For most of us, it was bad news, but not for everybody. As it turns out, this body, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, did not get an appraisal increase. As a group, this body, averaged over five years, actually got an appraisal decrease…Not surprisingly, the Board of Directors of the Appraisal District also got no increase. They, as a group, averaged over five years, got a decrease…Is that above your pay grade? To me, the buck stops here. You don’t control the Appraisal District, but you control my taxes…Before we start talking about raising taxes, we need to look at getting some equity in the appraisals and find some ways to bring this stuff in line. Our taxes are way higher than a lot of counties our size. So if you would consider lowering the taxes, you should consider asking the Appraisal District why year after year elected officials get some sweetheart deals…See if you can find out why we’re seeing what appears to be special treatment for elected officials.”
Noack then angrily interjected, “You know, Judge, if someone feels like elected officials are receiving special treatment, I’d highly encourage them to go through the process and talk with [Montgomery County District Attorney] Brett Ligon, and see if he’s willing to look into this, because I can assure you that I’m not doing a damn thing to influence what my appraised value comes back at. And it’s offensive that you would even bring that up and make it as if that’s the point.
Tibbs responded, “I do not believe that James Noack or Metts or any of you go to the Appraisal District and say ‘give me a break.’ What I do think is that we’ve got a good ol’ boy system that’s been around for a while, and there are people in positions that say ‘we want to give our guys a break.’…I’m not making that data up.
Noack then retorted, “I respect your right to come up here and say that. I just don’t like it. I know that I don’t do anything to influence it…That’s something to look at and we ought to figure out why it’s happening.
Tibbs replied, “I know you don’t lobby for yourselves but that’s the way it turns out…I know I got a 35% increase and you didn’t [pointing to Keough].”
Metts, who pays no property taxes, because he doesn’t have any real property in his name in order to avoid creditors, then added the following non sequitur, “I have something about Mr. Tibbs statement where he said we control the taxes in Montgomery County. We control the tax rate but not all the taxes. If your tax bill is $5,000, and you move the Montgomery County tax rate to zero, and you terminated every employee in Montgomery County…guess what? You’re still going to be paying $4,200 a year.” Metts’ point was that the County government’s taxes are only 16% of total taxes for the average citizen, an argument which had nothing whatsoever to do with the issue Tibbs raised.
A recent study Tibbs of Magnolia revealed that “it’s good to be the king” as far as property tax appraisals, because the MCAD clearly goes easy on elected officials, on members of the MCAD Board of Directors, and on the staff members themselves who formulate their own appraisals. Tibbs, who is a Director of the Montgomery County Tea Party, presented his findings at a Tea Party meeting on Monday, May 4, 2020.
It’s important to remember that property tax appraisals have become the engine for governmental entities to raise taxes while claiming that they have held their tax rates steady. That deception arises from the fact that the actual assessed tax is the product of the property tax appraisal amount and the tax rate:
Property Tax Assessed = Property Tax Appraisal Amount x Tax Rate.
As a result of the method of determining tax appraisals, taxing entities, such as the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, which oversees the Montgomery County government, or school districts, may increase their taxation immensely by relying upon MCAD or other tax appraisal districts statewide to do their dirty work for them, while they claim to have some fiscal restraint by keeping their tax rates stable. In actuality, if a taxing entity raises its taxes above the “effective tax rate,” a tax increase has occurred even if the tax rate has come down, as a result of higher property tax appraisals. Surprisingly, in 2019, after vociferous lobbying by the Children’s Hope PAC and the Citizens Budget Committee, both the Conroe Independent School District and the County government adopted budgets with tax rates at or slightly below the “effective tax rate.” The Woodlands Township later followed suit after fierce citizen lobbying there as well.
Nevertheless, Tibbs’ study revealed that, when it comes to property tax appraisal increases, important elected officials and appointed officials clearly enjoy favorable treatment. Tibbs’ raw data follows in a chart.
While Tibbs’ neighbors in the Montgomery Trace subdivision in Magnolia suffered property tax appraisal increases of approximately 30% during the past five years, the government “elite” enjoyed much lower increases or even average decreases:
- Commissioners Court members actually enjoyed an average 0.77% reduction over the 5 year period;
- The policymaking and oversight-responsible Board of Directors of MCAD, which sets the salaries for MCAD’s appraisal staff and determines reappraisal policy across Montgomery County, enjoyed a 0.28% reduction in their property tax appraisals over the 5 year period;
- The MCAD appraisal staff only suffered a 4.03% increase in their property tax appraisals, but Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski had a 0.12% reduction in his property tax appraisal.
Clearly, the members of the Commissioners Court – County Judge Mark Keough, and Commissioners Mike Meador, James Noack, and Charlie Riley – do not suffer the property tax increases of the plebeians who elect them and pay the exorbitant taxes they assess. (Commissioner James Metts doesn’t own real property in his own name in Montgomery County.)
The MCAD Board of Directors is quite interesting. Its Chairman, Bruce Tough, often known as the “King of Taxation,” has actually seen a reduction of 6.84% over the 5 year period, so that may explain his insensitivity to the tax suffering of the rest of us.
For five years, citizens have lobbied the Commissioners Court and the Conroe ISD to reduce spending. Those requests have fallen on deaf ears. Now, the reason why has become quite apparent. The elite don’t suffer property tax increases like the rest of us.