Perry’s Home Front

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Gov. Rick Perry apparently claims a homestead exemption on his place in College Station, though we all know he lives and works and votes in Austin, according to a story today by the Associated Press.

Reporter Jay Root writes:

Aides were scrambling Tuesday to figure out whether rent payments that Perry and his wife received for the property would require them to claim a smaller homestead exemption than they would normally get. Perry’s daughter, Texas A&M student Sydney Perry, lives in the home and has roommates that pay rent to the family, officials said.

Perry aides said the governor is entitled to claim a house he owns in College Station as his primary residence, even though he lives in a mansion in Austin and is asking voters to keep him in the state capital for the next four years. But after inquiries from The AP late Tuesday, Perry’s re-election campaign said he may have to refund some of the tax break he got.

My understanding is that Perry plans to move to the College Station home after his time in office ends (or we all die of old age, whichever comes first). I won’t claim to know if his homestead exemption is valid — that’s up to the local taxing authority.

But I do know there’s a much more scandalous story surrounding Perry and his houses that the Observer reported last spring, a story that deserves more attention than it’s received.

Perry owned a vacation home in Horsehoe Bay (before he bought the house in College Station). We reported that the property values on that home in Horseshoe Bay remained suspiciously low during the six years Perry owned it, which happened to correspond with the housing boom.

Perry bought the house for a low, low price from his friend and ally, state Sen. Troy Fraser. As Andrew Wheat reported in May:

The Burnet Central Appraisal District had pegged the lot’s value at $414,700 for tax purposes. After Perry protested, the district slashed its appraisal to $313,762, the price the governor said he paid to Fraser…..The district stuck to this appraisal for six years — during the now-notorious real estate bubble.

Then, in 2007, when Perry was preparing to sell the property, the value suddenly spiked:

Perry’s 2007 increase almost doubled the appraised value of his land, to $600,000, a 93 percent increase the year he sold the lot.

It’s not clear if anything fishy was going on or if the governor or political allies put any pressure on the local appraisal district. But there’s no doubt that the appraised values on the governor’s vacation home followed a very unusual trend line.

Those appraisals resulted in serious tax savings for Perry over the years he owned the house, and netted the governor a huge profit when he sold it.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.