Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Economic growth leads to jumps in property values

People in Orange County have been praying for decades to get economic and population growth. Last week, they found out one way that long-awaited growth affects them.

Property values across the county jumped up, with an average increase of 16 percent, putting Orange County in the growth percentage values of places like the San Antonio, Houston, and Fort Worth metropolitan areas, according to the Orange County Appraisal District.

Chief Appraiser Scott Overton of the Orange County Appraisal District said the local appraisals had been lower than averages in the past year determined by the Texas State Comptroller's Office. Because of that discrepancy, the five public school districts in the county could have stood to lose a total $8 million in state education funding.

A survey of houses for sale across the county show how much Orange County has become a sellers market. A 900-square-foot wood-frame house in a 1952 Orange subdivision is listed at $125,000. A new 2,000-square-foot house in Little Cypress is on the market for $345,000. Also, an 1,800-square-foot wood-frame house in Orangefield is for sale at $219,000.

Property prices across the county have been going up as plans developed for the new Chevron Phillips chemical plant. Now, numerous large construction projects, including the $8.5 billion CP Golden Triangle Polymers, and the new Entergy power plant, are bringing new people to the county who need places to live.

Taxing entities, like cities, school districts, and emergency services districts for fire departments, will be required to adjust their tax rates to the new values. The "effective rate" will be the amount of tax rate the entity should charge to raise the same amount of property tax revenues as the year before. An 8 percent increase in the effective tax rate will need an election for voters to approve that higher rate.

In addition, people have until May 31 to file a protest of their new appraisals. The protests may be made through the Orange County Appraisal District website at orangecad.net, or by calling 409-745-4777. In-person protests may be made during regular business hours at the appraisal district headquarters, 9157 Interstate 10 East in the McLewis area.

The state set up the appraisal district system about 1980 to have one entity in each county set appraised values for taxes. Before that, each entity made its own property values, which led to big discrepancies, even within the same counties.

Orange County Appraisal District has professional real estate professionals and staff. It is overseen by an appointed board of directors. Each taxing entity gets a percentage of votes and they are cast for nominees to the board. The board meets under the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The Orange County Tax Assessor-Collector's Office is in the Orange County Courthouse administration building in Orange. The office is led by an elected official and here collects property taxes for all local taxing entities. Since 1980, the office has not handled property appraisals.

Scott Overton is the chief appraiser, the professional in charge of regular operations. He said Texas does not have personal state income taxes, so cities, counties, school districts, and other special districts "all rely heavily on property taxes."

Overton said every year, the Texas Comptroller's Office audits appraisals by each county appraisal district in the state. The audit uses records of recent property sales plus local appraisals for the study. If a local appraisal district fails for two years in a row to be 5 percent or more off from the comptroller's office calculations, the state can cut the amount of funding to a public school district in the county.

Overton said the Orange County Appraisal District had been lower than 5 percent in the state audit of values for two years. If adjustments were not made to get closer to the housing market values this year, the five school district could lose a total of an estimated $8 million.

The entities will be working this summer on new budgets for the 2023-24 budget year. Most school districts start their budget years on September 1 and other entities began theirs on October 1. The entities will set the their property tax rates before the budget is approved.

Property tax bills are usually mailed in October and they are due by the end of January. Taxing entities have a variety of exemptions to save on property taxes. The homestead exemption allows people to have a discount if they live in the house. Homeowners age 65 and older get another exemption to cut taxes. Some entities also have exemption discounts for the disabled and for veterans. Information on the exemptions is available through the Orange County Appraisal District.


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