How about a look at the Chronicle's property tax appraisals?

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Today Rick Casey looks at Mayor White’s efforts to get local refineries to pay more property taxes:

More than a year ago [Mayor White] came to the conclusion that refineries in the area were very undervalued and began discussing with appraisal district officials the reasons. He said he found them to be “hardworking and honest” but understaffed.

What’s more, the big oil companies with virtually unlimited budgets had them outgunned in legal talent and testifying experts when disputes ended up in court.

White and Robinson worked out a strategy. Part of it was for White to arrange meetings with top executives of the companies.

“Top executives will meet with the mayor of Houston,” Robinson said. “They send a lower level to meet with the chief appraiser.”

[snip]

The appraisal district and Shell did come to an agreement last week. Shell refining facilities in Harris County will jump 64 percent in taxable value, from $586 million to $960 million.

Bettencourt estimated that will raise Shell’s property taxes between $9 million and $10 million. He said if the other four companies reached similar settlements, local governments will receive about $50 million in new revenues.

Two notes:

1. Wouldn’t it be great for local homeowners and small business owners if Mayor White was doing this to help relieve their escalating property tax burden? But we know that’s not the reason for these arm-twisting meetings. Local little folks will not see any property tax relief, but Harris County/Houston will see more tax revenue.

2. For Casey’s next column, he and his research assistant should check into the Houston Chronicle‘s property valuations. We’ve heard rumors for a while now that the Chronicle breaks out its big legal guns at appraisal time, and has been successful at fighting its appraisals. Maybe Mayor White can arrange a meeting with Jack Sweeney and Jeff Cohen to reach an agreement.


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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.