George Scott’s Plans Post School Board – Property Tax and Public Education Accountability Reform

George Scott recording a Covering Katy podcast.

KATY (Covering Katy News) – We know what Katy School Board member George Scott will be doing after he leaves the school board in May.  Scott will serve as coordinator for a new website that focuses on property tax and public education accountability issues at both the statewide and targeted local levels.  The website is TexasGovernmentReality.com.

The website launched last week. The initial focus is on the state’s property tax system, which Scott and his industry experts have labeled “systemically broken” in terms of fairness and equity to property owners. Issues involving the public education system will begin being added soon.

“Property tax experts John Osenbaugh and Pat O’Connor have experiences and expertise that touch virtually every aspect of the issues affecting property owners and their interaction with the property tax system,” Scott said.

Coach Dan Hart and his wife Betty of Houston have made it possible for the website to be published. Hart is a longtime critic of the Harris County Appraisal District but has significant criticisms of the system statewide.

Working with Scott, Coach Hart has summarized his concerns in a published story. In addition, Scott provides a keynote summary of his overview of the property tax system, which is accompanied by a video filmed at the conference where this project began. A separate feature story profiling the lives of the Houston couple is also featured.

Content videos of mostly 3-6 minutes in length will be a staple feature of this website.  Currently, there are 10 videos posted on the website, which primarily include O’Connor’s and Osenbaugh’s specific criticisms of the property tax system.

The initial focus has been on rating the overall system. Numerous videos address the failure of the Appraisal Review Board process to adequately protect property owners’ rights. More videos and features will be added weekly, according to Scott.

In addition, the website plans to cover specific protest hearings during the coming tax season to showcase examples of deficiencies in the process.

Those videos that have gone live at launch and those to come seek to break issues into discreet components so they remain shorter and very focused on individual issues.

Different components of what they call the absolute dysfunctional protest process grounded in the Appraisal Review Board system are divided into very specific aspects of the ARB system. The common denominator of all the complaints from the perspective of O’Connor and Osenbaugh is what they label “grossly insufficient training, general lack of understanding of the property tax code itself, and a rubber stamp mentality that the lack of training produces in decisions for property owners.” The agents say the ARB system has no practical independence from the leadership of the central appraisal district as envisioned by state law.

“In the videos, they address the reality that the ARB protest process is in effect the ‘supreme tax court’ for the vast majority of property owners because of the cost of binding arbitration and litigation,” Scott said. Further, they say the process is stacked against the people because the Central Appraisal District Board of Directors appoints the attorneys representing the ARB.

Beyond these videos, Texas Government Reality will dive into actual cases involving actual properties starting in Harris County and Bexar County.

“These individual cases will cut to the chase about more than a theory of how property tax protest process has become so in favor of central appraisal districts,” Scott said.

“From commercial to residential properties, including ones involving binding arbitration, Osenbaugh and O’Connor and his agents are going to pull back the green curtain that the central appraisal districts and perhaps even the ruling class of the Texas Legislature don’t want you to understand,” Scott added. “Over time, we’ll take a look at dozens and dozens of actual cases.”

“Beyond that, our plan is to travel to the major counties of the Houston region as well as Travis and Bexar counties to highlight the real-world obstacles that the State of Texas has failed to correct or adequately represent property owners,” Scott said.

“Over time, we’ll pick a wide variety of property types and situations,” Scott said. “Nothing says reality better than reality itself. And the reality is not going to be that pretty for those policymakers that refuse to change the status quo and protect property owners.”

Property tax system critic Dan Hart says that virtually every aspect of the property tax system in Texas works against the interests of property owners who want a genuine, fair shake and the process in protesting the arbitrary values that central appraisal districts determine.

In a scathing point-by-point article, Hart evaluated individual components of what makes up the system, including original appraisal, the selection of central appraisal district board directors, the lack of credible professional training by members of panels that hear protests, and the lack of true independence in the overall protests process.

“The system is literally stacked against homeowners, and small to medium business owners in particular, but against every class of property as well,” Hart says. “The system is designed to maximize property values and property tax income,” he says. “Also, it is very clear that the State of Texas itself has a vested interest in higher property values and higher property tax income to fund public education.”

“Somewhere along the way over the past couple of decades, in particular, the property tax system has become a protected government entity created and sustained by the government to meet government’s needs, even if it means that rank and file property owners get horribly mistreated in the process,” Hart said.

His rather lengthy analysis of what he calls major deficiencies in the system can be accessed on TexasGovernmentReality.com at this link:  http://www.texasgovernmentreality.com/coach-dan-hart.html

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