Harvey damage lowers property values, tax revenue in Port Aransas

Posted at 9:31 PM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-11 22:31:53-04

The physical damage from Hurricane Harvey is dealing another financial blow to the City of Port Aransas.

It is the news that homeowners feared, but expected: the Nueces County Tax Appraisal District confirmed today that many properties lost value because of damage from the storm.

With a drop in property value comes a drop in tax revenue.

That is a challenge for Port Aransas, which still needs plenty of money for rebuilding.

Before Hurricane Harvey, the total assessed value of Port Aransas properties was $2.2 billion dollars. Ronnie Canales, Nueces County Chief Appraiser, says post-Harvey that has dropped by an initial estimate $300 million dollars.

Canales says the decrease could be as much as $600 million dollars when the number will be finalized in July. 

"That doesn’t include what’s going to happen between now and the end of July when we certify," he said. "Those numbers will change even more. So you could be looking at probably another 300 million, or 200 million. Depends, because there has been a lot of damage in Port Aransas."

It is something that Port Aransas residents were already bracing for.

"When a hurricane such as Harvey, of that magnitude, hits, every home, every business in Port Aransas received damage, with the majority of them sustaining substantial damage. We knew property values would drop," Sharon McKinney, Superintendent of the Port Aransas ISD, said. 

When property values go down, tax revenue also goes down, both the City of Port Aransas and the school district rely on that revenue. 

Port Aransas operates on $10 million dollars a year. Last year, $6 million of that came from property tax revenue, according to Mayor Charles Bujan. Now with property values down, city leaders only expect to see $5 million for the next fiscal year, taking a million dollar loss. 

It comes at a time when Port Aransas needs any extra funds they can get.

"Our city right now has sustained damage in the neighborhood of 50 million dollars. That could rise to $70 million," Bujan said. 

Nonetheless, Mayor Bujan is confident the city will find the funds to meet both operating budget and rebuiding needs.  

"We are not delusional. We knew that we were going to take a hit. So we started preparing for that way back after it made landfall," he said. 

One safety net is $26 million dollars that the city has in reserves. Knowing that they would face a tight budget, the city has also cut 10 percent its staff and implemented a hiring freeze. 

Port Aransas has also applied for more than 50 grants, as well as a $5 million dollar FEMA loan that can help with rebuilding.

As for the school district, McKinney says the revenue loss will be felt, but the district is still calculating the numbers.  

"One of the good things, our school board mindful of the last few years, is we’ve trimmed and gotten pretty lean, and we have a healthy fund balance, which allows us when the worst case scenario happens to be able to have some funds to make sure our district continues to run. So we are in good shape right now. We are just very unsure of what next year might look like," McKinney said 

So how do property values for Port Aransas look going forward? Canales says it will be 3-5 years before property values climb back to where they were before Harvey.