Cameron County wants new property tax laws

Abandoned and dilapidated buildings are not just creating an eyesore, according to Cameron County Tax Assessor Collector Tony Yzaguirre, these buildings are also costing millions of dollars in lost taxes.

Also costing the county and the 32 entities it collects taxes for, are properties that have been off the pay roll.

Over $41 million are currently owed to the county in back taxes. State Rep. Rene Oliveira and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. are looking to introduce legislation that will help reduce this problem.

Right now, the law says the home or the building has to be found unsafe and you have to wait a minimum of five years (to seize it), Oliveira said. This bill proposes to reduce that to three years."

Oliveira said reducing the wait period from five to three years to allow the taxing entities to collect tax delinquent properties, will help reduce the amount of abandoned homes which are conducive to crime.

It will also help generate taxes from the property much sooner.

Another proposal is to allow taxing entities to collect back taxes dating back 10 years instead of just five.

"Now, you can only go back five years - if I build a half-million-dollar house on some raw acreage that I have and if I don TMt tell anyone - they can only go back and collect for the last five years, said Oliveira. Even though I may have not been paying taxes for 20."

Oliveira said that for many years lawmakers have been concerned with protecting people's property rights, but due to abuse of the system it's also time to protect taxing entities.

"These bills only go after those people who have abandoned their property for at least three years, said Oliveira. I mean completely abandoned, where the city and county are having to pay to cut the grass and have become blighted homes."