Tax season has arrived and with it comes a season of stress for many. But for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, the problem is multiplied.
Harvey left the Coastal Bend in a state of devastation even after months of cleanup, millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours spent on recovery. Less than a year later, however, residents are faced with a new task: tax season.
Thankfully, for those affected by the storm, there is help.
Tax season can be tough on a normal year but the 2017 tax season is different for South Texas. In beachside Port Aransas, where much of the city was leveled by Harvey's fury, millions have already been spent on rebuilding what was lost. For many residents, that meant using money they'd normally have left around for tax season.
"It's very stressful," explained Debra Williams, a resident in Port Aransas. "It is, because you're trying to use your cash for repairs, but you just do what you have to do."
For Williams, a new roof, flooring, sheetrock and exterior siding drained available funds quickly. She dished out thousands for repairs, yet when the tax man came around, she paid the full amount for her 2017 property taxes despite not even being able to live in her home.
"Anytime you have a disaster like this, it's going to be tough, but we did have wind storm and flood," Williams added.
Her insurance plans helped provide a financial buffer but the bigger break came when the tax department came to her damaged home and reevaluated it. She was given a 50% reduction on her 2018 taxes and was glad to get it. Others aren't so lucky.
"As far as I know, they haven't gone down," said one resident, who did not want to be named. "I hope they do, but I don't think they've gone down yet."
Nueces County has another option, which would relieve residents like these from paying all of their taxes upfront. Instead, Harvey survivors can request to pay their taxes in quarterly installments instead of a lump sum.
"They're strapped for cash, and it makes things difficult," said Kevin Kieschnick, a Nueces County Tax assessor. "Anything that can be done to streamline the process, make it easier for those affected, is hopefully going to be the end result for this."
Kieschnick said one way to make recovery easier for those affected is to change the process moving forward. This year, he'll discuss options with the state that could offer more immediate relief if another hurricane were to strike the Texas coast.
Commissioner Brent Chesney, or Precinct Four, which includes Port Aransas, said a change like this is something he believes the government can do.
"I think that's very positive. I think that's what ought to occur, and I think that would provide some relief to these poor folks who are worried about their property taxes."
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