STATEMENT TO THE TAXPAYERS OF JEFFERSON COUNTY AND THE MEDIA
Those who have followed the Jefferson County Appraisal District (JCAD) case and story for the last year should be already aware that we have spent the duration of that period attempting to collect information and data on what we believed was an unfair rescheduling of 1.5 level homes. During a joint press conference that we held a couple of weeks ago we highlighted numerous areas of concern including:
- That there is little oversight and transparency between JCAD and the taxpayers such that taxpayers are not notified of scheduling changes to their property making it nearly impossible to successfully protest their appraisal value even if they went through the requisite administrative procedure process of protesting.
- That limited self-reported sales data was used to increase the 1.5 level homes from 2014 despite the 2013 year showing the opposite without a reduction being given to the 1.5 level homes. This upward scheduling was county wide to this classification of homes. In addition, the same 2014 sales data had approximately 35% of the homes in the data raised even though there was a concrete sale price below JCAD’s appraised value.
It has been reported to us by employees of JCAD that the new Chief Appraiser Ms. Angela Bellard has directed that data not showing what she would like is thrown out to improve the data accordingly to her satisfaction.
- This scheduling change cost taxpayers millions of dollars and it will continue to each year as long as it is in effect.
- Ms. Bellard has refused to retroact this change and continues to maintain her position. She has refused any sort of comprise up to this very week. She has been offered numerous opportunities to work with us on it and has declined to do so. She relied on the fact that very few people knew of the scheduling change and therefore did not attempt to follow through with their protests and by the time we made this scheduling change known to the general public the timeline to protest and then file lawsuit had passed. Entering at this point was our class representative Ms. Elaine Henderson who did go through the whole process and file suit on her home’s value and on the behalf of the other 1.5 level homeowners. The problem is the system is rigged and because the others did not get through the whole process JCAD (Ms. Bellard) has sought to isolate Ms. Henderson to a single case and not address the other 8,000 homeowners.
- Bellard is documented as having signed a letter threatening at least one of the above referenced JCAD employees with termination if they did not become a team player and abstain from criticizing Ms. Bellard’s practices.
- Bellard made last year as a newly appointed chief appraiser nearly $200,000 with benefits. All other elected officials including county commissioners, the tax assessor collector, and the sheriff make approximately $90,000.
- Bellard admitted in a deposition under oath to committing several misdemeanors in violation of the appraisal code. While we do not have a desire to pursue this in a criminal sense, it is worth noting that this is another instance of her abusing her capacity as Chief Appraiser.
All of the proceeding has been reported in one way or another before. However, this brings us to the present and the situation we are in now. Because of the aforementioned rigged system that prevents a taxpayer to challenge as a group the process without fully exhausting the procedure of protesting and then filing suit within 60 days of the protest, Ms. Bellard has been able to dodge having to deal with a class of people and just go head on with Ms. Henderson’s case.
Due the fact that Ms. Henderson’s case will not bring a remedy or relief to the 1.5 level class of homeowners as it is filed as of present, we will be dismissing the case this week to focus on getting the word out to people in the class that they must protest their appraisal value independently and go through the entire process and only then may there be a possible opportunity to proceed collectively against JCAD and Ms. Bellard.
THIS IS WHY WE STRONGLY URGE AND RECOMMEND THAT ANY HOMEOWNER OF A 1.5 LEVEL HOME PROTEST THEIR VALUE IF IT WENT UP IN 2015 OR 2016. The scheduling change is still continuing to cause these homeowners to pay more tax based on faulty data. It has already been reported to us by numerous individuals in the 1.5 classification that their appraisal notices have shown once again a astronomical increase in appraised values.
Another new item is that if any homeowner wishes to get more information regarding the schedule change that they feel would be beneficial to their protest that would not normally be supplied to them then all they must do is request it in an OPEN RECORDS REQUEST and JCAD must supply it in ten days by law. The lack of the knowledge of the scheduling change and the proper information to protest it is why last year more people did not protest their 1.5 level appraised value.
Now, what is next? We believe due to the continually compounding issues regarding Ms. Bellard’s practices that she be terminated. How could this be accomplished? One suggestion we have been confronted with regularly is that someone start a petition to demand the Appraisal Board terminate Ms. Bellard. The Appraisal Board can hire or fire the Chief Appraiser anytime at their pleasure.
What part can the taxpayer play in this? 1) Protest in overwhelming numbers to bring attention to the issues surrounding Ms. Bellard and the JCAD process2) Call JCAD to have your name added for attendance to the May 18th Appraisal Board meeting to voice your concerns about the vacancy on the appraisal board and demand the new board member push with the existing ones for transparency, fairness, and express their discontent with Ms. Bellard’s practices. 3) Start and sign the aforementioned petition for Ms. Bellard’s termination. 4) Lobby for legislative change in the appraisal district process to provide notice to taxpayers of scheduling changes that JCAD implements.
We appreciate your time and consideration in attempting to make the Jefferson County Appraisal District and our county a more transparent and less corrupt place to live and work.
Brent Coon & Associates was founded in 2001. Today, with multiple satellite offices around the country and hundreds of associated firms in various practice areas, it is one of the most recognized trial law firms in the nation and the epitome of the 21st century law practice. Brent Coon & Associates employs a full complement of aggressive litigators with solid experience in individual and complex multi-party, occupational/environmental, health and personal injury cases.
BCA is a public policy firm and has worked with numerous state and federal investigative agencies, and serves as institutional or advisory counsel to numerous agencies and organizations, including the United Steelworkers, TMPA, pilot unions, railroad and other transportation unions. Their work in this arena has led to widespread improvements in the safety and working conditions of industries throughout America and abroad.
The firm and founder have been repeatedly recognized by most leading journals and legal associations including Texas Lawyer Litigation Department of the Year (2013) ; Forbes "Lawyer of the Month" and Forbes “Top 75 Litigation Firms”; MTMP "Clarence Darrow Award"; Texas Monthly Magazine "Texas Super Lawyers" (2007-2015); "Best Lawyers in America"; Lawdragon ""500 Leading Plaintiff Lawyers in America"; American Association of Justice "Stephen Sharp Public Service Award", Best Lawyers in America and many others.
Jay Jackson - Director of Communications
Brent Coon & Associates
Brent Coon and Associates
215 Orleans Beaumont, Texas 77701
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