By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have looked for homes and property lately in Liberty County, you might be feeling a little sticker shock. That’s because the price of an average home is now $198,403, up from $161,729 in 2021, a difference of $36,674 in one year’s time for the same home or property with no additional improvements.
The increased valuations mean that Liberty County’s total taxable value for 2022 is $10,531,046,012, up nearly $2 billion from 2021’s taxable values of $8,554,137,749. The 2022 taxable value includes $404,100,459 for new value, such as new subdivisions, new homes and improvements to existing homes and businesses.
Of the 138,000 parcels on the county’s tax rolls, roughly 110,000 to 115,000 are for homes, farms and businesses, and the remainder comes from personal property and mineral rights, according to Chief Appraiser Lana McCarty with the Liberty County Central Appraisal District.
“The jump in values is unprecedented and happening statewide, including Liberty County,” McCarty said. “The good news is it seems to be slowing down a little, even though we aren’t seeing a drop in house prices at this time.”
While the Liberty County CAD is accustomed to taking the slings and arrows from property owners who are upset over the higher valuations, McCarty said the CAD is regulated by the property tax code and the State Comptroller’s Office, which audits each county every year to ensure that valuations meet the market value.
“The employees of the Liberty County CAD are homeowners in Liberty County, too,” she said. “I hear it constantly that people feel like they are being priced out of their home, and that’s disheartening. I am from here, too, and don’t want to run my neighbors off, nor do we want to be the most hated people in Liberty County. Unfortunately we are required to appraise properties at market value, otherwise the State Comptroller’s Office will come in and run our office.”
Just a decade ago, growth appeared on the horizon for Liberty County, but now it’s finally here. Land that was previously farmland or grazing land for cattle is now being developed for subdivisions.
“People are moving to Liberty County. Harris County has outgrown itself so people are moving to the surrounding counties. With the Grand Parkway and Mont Belvieu overflowing, I don’t think there is any way of keeping it out. I think it’s starting to hit Liberty County in ways we can’t stop,” McCarty said.
The highest concentration of new properties in Liberty County should come as no surprise. The Colony Ridge communities south of Plum Grove have created a situation for Cleveland ISD resulting in multiple bond referendums to build new campuses. Just this summer, Cleveland ISD opened three new campuses – two in the Colony Ridge area and one in Cleveland – and repurposed another campus to help address the astronomical rise in enrollment.
“While the largest increase for Cleveland ISD came from the Plum Grove area, we also have Grand Oaks Reserve putting in a lot of rooftops in Cleveland as well,” said McCarty.
Dayton had the second-highest increase in the number of rooftops, though even rural areas like Devers, Hull and Daisetta also are seeing big jumps.
“We are seeing increases across the board. It’s not just in one particular school district. It’s county-wide. We hardly ever touch the Hull-Daisetta area because we typically don’t have a lot of sales in that area. Where we normally have about 5 to 6 home sales in a year, we had 96 this year,” McCarty said.
Some good news for property owners is that Proposition 2 was approved by the majority of voters this year, raising the state’s homestead exemption for taxation from school districts from $25,000 to $40,000.
Cities, school districts, Liberty County and other taxing entities will consider the county-wide valuations in determining their tax rates for the next fiscal year, which starts on Sept. 1, 2022. Once those tax rates are set, the Liberty County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office will begin sending out the new property tax statements, not to be confused with the assessed value statements sent out by the CAD. All property taxes are due by Jan. 31, 2023, to avoid penalties.
“The County should start mailing those out in October or November. My suggestion for property owners is to thoroughly review those statements and check to make sure all of the exemptions are reflected,” McCarty said.
When new assessed values are sent out next year, there will be an opportunity to protest. The deadline for most protests will be May 15, or the 30th day after the notice of appraised value was delivered, whichever is later.