LETTERS: A crisis in confidence

Jackson Street Downtown Harlingen. 

My entire life depends on professionalism. My health depends on my ability to select the best doctor I can. My legal rights likewise depend on my selection of an attorney. Politically, I need to vote for the politicians I feel will make the best decisions for my city, state and country. My financial future in a large part depends on the professionalism of people I have no role in selecting. When I disagree with them I am presumed to be wrong and unlike the way our legal system works, I have to prove that they have made a mistake.

I refer to the Cameron Appraisal District.

As an example, a little over two years ago I purchased a building on North Commerce here in Harlingen. I paid $150,000. The assessment was $175,950. I decided not to protest the value because of the stress involved in going through the process with the Professional Appraisers at their office.

The initial result is generally the same. Compared to some other property in the city their value is correct. The fact that I paid a certain amount does not have much bearing on the issue and there is nothing that can be done.

If you can get a meeting with a supervisor and try to work out an agreed amount that is additional stress. In one such meeting I was told that the rents I charged were not high enough. Finally, you can sit in what can only be described as a trial before three citizens and a ‘Professional Appraiser’. That meeting is not for the faint of heart.

You against a ‘Professional’.

This year they determined that my $150,000 building is worth $342,403.

Virtually all my property is in the Downtown Improvement District. We building owners are the stewards of Harlingen’s business history and to a large extent, that history’s future.

Without a functioning Downtown, Harlingen becomes little more than subdivisions and strip centers.

Without a viable Downtown, Harlingen ceases to be a community and becomes a ‘bedroom’ for Brownsville and McAllen.

The oldest building Downtown is 111 years old. Even the newest buildings are around 60 years old.

The maintenance costs on older buildings are much higher than new buildings. Insurance, if it can be obtained, is expensive. We incubate more small businesses than any other area of Harlingen or the Valley for that matter. The rents are lower Downtown for a variety of reasons.

Part of that reason is because people prefer ‘shiny and new’. Also, everyone knows it is hard to find parking Downtown.

Last year around 40% of the buildings Downtown were flooded – some with a foot and a half of water. Our reward is that the Appraisal District increased the value of almost every building in Downtown. The virus has caused the loss of small businesses in the Downtown and the reduction of rents at least on a temporary basis.

The Appraisal District had the opportunity to take both the flooding and the business interruption from the virus into consideration in 2020 values and instead chose to increase values.

There is a crisis in confidence.

Bill DeBrooke, Harlingen