Bud Kennedy

A columnist’s apology to Dan Patrick: The tax records were wrong. So was I

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Turns out I owe Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick an apology.

He paid his rightful share of property taxes on his home in Montgomery County.

Yes, Patrick’s property tax bill went down instead of up the last two years.

But that was only because of a mistake by county appraisers and because he added a homestead exemption, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.

The newspaper has removed a Feb. 8 report from its website questioning why Patrick paid less.

In a correction, the newspaper said the report was based in part on inaccurate data from the county tax office.

I wrote a column here last week based on that wrong info. So I was wrong, too. Like the Chronicle, we have removed that column from our website.

This is awful. I apologize to Dan, and to you.

Agree or disagree with Patrick, he is one of the Texas elected officials working hardest to rein in county, city and school taxes.

It sounds as if a bunch of folks in Houston and Montgomery County made a series of mistakes, and that unfairly made him look bad.

The report in the Chronicle seemed straightforward and well-grounded. It even included comments from the Conroe-based Montgomery County Tax Appraisal District chief appraiser.

The tax numbers matched what’s on the public website. Patrick’s tax bill on a house he bought in 2017 went down $2,700, or about 14 percent.

But the newspaper wrote Friday that the tax reduction was “inaccurately depicted.”

Turns out Patrick’s property tax bill went down “largely because of factors that involved no action on his part and a tax break available to all Texas homeowners,” the newspaper reported.

Patrick added a homestead exemption, the newspaper said.

The appraisal district also corrected the size of his house by 500 square feet. Plus, Lake Conroe neighborhood values went down.

(Patrick had not filed an appeal.)

So the Feb. 8 story wasn’t fake. But it was the result of compound mistakes.

Exemption information from the county tax office “turned out to be erroneous,” the Chronicle wrote, “and the office has since corrected it.”

The original Chronicle story had raised doubt just when the Texas Senate is about to consider a major property tax reform bill.

Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Pearland, have agreed to promote Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2, which would limit local property tax increases to 2.5 percent per year unless voters approve higher taxes on a general-election ballot. The current limit is 8 percent.

Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae and appraisal district Chief Appraiser Tony Belinoski did not return messages Friday and Saturday.

Patrick’s office staff and campaign consultant also did not return messages or phone calls Friday.

Now, I’ll ask your help.

If you know people who read or shared last Sunday’s column about Patrick and his taxes, please make sure they also see this.

That headline asked, “Is he paying his share?”

Yes. He is.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.

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