BROWNSVILLE — Soon, Cameron County taxpayers can kiss goodbye the cramped space and long lines at the tax assessor’s office in the administrative wing of the courthouse.
Today and Tuesday, the Cameron County Tax Assessor’s office will be closed while staff moves from the Brownsville Main Tax Office at 964 E. Harrison St. to its new location in the former Wells Fargo building at 835 E. Levee St. Normal operating hours will resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the new location.
In the meantime, Cameron County residents who do have business with the tax assessor’s office are not out of options. The Brownsville Southmost Office at 2900 Southmost Blvd. and the Brownsville Westside Office at 1763 Military Hwy. will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both those locations are in police substations.
And residents in Harlingen, San Benito, Los Fresnos, Port Isabel, La Feria and Rio Hondo can visit branch offices in those municipalities, which are open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. And, of course, residents can pay property taxes online at www.cameroncountytax.org.
As for the move, it should enable the tax assessor’s office to become more efficient.
“They are going to encompass the entire first floor,” Cameron County Administrator David Garcia said. “They are going to basically move their operation from the administrative side of the courthouse to the new location.”
The county bought the former six-story Wells Fargo building in February 2016 for $2.3 million. Garcia said, after some renovations, county staff started moving in, including Justices of the Peace, county clerks and the county’s IT department. Garcia said the county still is deciding on how to use the building’s fifth and sixth floors.
As for the tax assessor’s office, the next few days will be busy. Cameron County Tax Assessor Tony Yzaguirre said staff members have been preparing for the move for two weeks. On Friday afternoon, as people still showed up to stand in line at the old location, the maintenance department was helping Yzaguirre’s staff move “tons and tons of office supplies.”
“At 5 p.m., we shut down and start unplugging all of our state and county computers,” Yzaguirre said Friday afternoon.
Aside from a new office, Yzaguirre said the county tax assessor will have improved service for residents.
“We are adding two new drive-up windows. We have three now,” he said. “The idea is to streamline the operation through the drive-up service area. The idea is to alleviate the congestion inside the building. The two additional drive-up windows will be for taking care of property tax collection and renewal of vehicle registration.”
For decades, one of the worst parts of visiting the Brownsville Main Tax Office has been lines. There is no seating for residents waiting to do business with the tax office. Taxpayers simply had to stand in long lines and wait. That’s going to change.
“Another item we are adding is kind of like a kiosk ticket system, where an individual walks into the building and they are greeted by a tax office employee, and he or she will be able to tell you if you have proper forms,” Yzaguirre said.
There’s no point to wait in a line if a tax clerk will just end up informing a resident that they don’t have the proper documentation for whatever business it is they are trying to conduct.
“As soon as you’re greeted and the county employee says everything is OK, they’ll issue you a ticket, and the individual will sit down and wait until the system calls you,” Yzaguirre said, adding that there will be 14 tellers to help residents who have business with the tax office.
And, importantly, there should be no more standing.
“ We have chairs now. Nobody is standing up,” Yzaguirre said. “We are able to do that because of the space, the lobby area. We’ve added chairs and benches so people can sit down and wait.”
Everything about going to the tax office should be much smoother for people, he said. It will be a far cry from the courthouse location.
“Here in the existing building, we had to do with what we had,” Yzaguirre said. “It was kind of congested.”
However, after three decades working at the main office on Harrison, Yzaguirre admits he is a bit sentimental about the move.
“I’ve been here 30 years, and I guess I’m going to miss the office. I’ve been driving here for the past 30 years,” Yzaguirre said. “But we’re going to start the new year with a new building. It’s going to be great. I love it.”