Wft .ATAVA’n: ,,X1RPV4 0 lA kMg z. . to be other than a market price Cory says, appraisers are supposed to ensure that the sales price aligns with prices of similar properties. Asked how Perry’s price compares with sales prices of comparable properties, Hemphill says, “There’s not much like any of these [Peninsula] properties:’ He says the Peninsula “is a unique area” with some of Burnet County’s most desirable waterfront property. While all the Peninsula lots are pricey, Hemphill says the governor’s lot isn’t one of the finest. \(Of seven undeveloped tracts at the Peninsula, Perry’s was Defending the devaluation of Perry’s lot, Hemphill says, “That seemed like a high value for that time” The appraiser adds that, “It’s hard to argue with a closing statement:’ Perry did not file a closing statement with in his protest. Hemphill says the district provided Perry’s entire protest file to the Observer in response to its Public Information Act request. The file included no closing statement. Texas is one of few states that do not require sales-price disclosures. \(Two bills to mandate disclosure died in House appraisal districts often ask property owners to disclose sales prices voluntarily. In July 2001, the governor responded to such a questionnaire from the Burnet appraisal district. Perry reported he bought the Horseshoe Bay lot four months earlier for “s3o0,000f That is $13,762 less than the governor claimed the sales price was several months later, when he filed his tax protest. Asked about the discrepancy, appraiser Stan Hemphill says, “Sometimes people round numbers off” From 2001 to 2007, just three of the seven undeveloped Peninsula lots managed to avoid an appraisal increasetwo belonged to Perry and Fraser. In 2007, when Perry sold his land, the district hiked appraisals of every undeveloped lot in the Peninsula. A district appraiser told the Observer that the increases reflected documented sales of surrounding waterfront lots for more than $i million apiece. 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. His taxes had gone from $7,543 in 2006 to $12,345 in 2007. Perry had other reasons to sell his Peninsula property. On the same day he sold his lot, he bought a house in College Station \(see “Always an Aggie,” Observer, The governor’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. When he sold the Peninsula property to Perry in 2001, Fraser kept his neighboring lot. Throughout this period, Fraser owned another Burnet County lot appraised at just $8,000. Fraser’s homestead, appraised at $1.9 million, lies on the Llano County side of Horseshoe Bay. Though these three properties carry collective appraisals of $3.3 million, Fraser has filed sworn personal financial statements with the Texas Ethics Commission in recent years claiming that he has had no real estate interests. The state ethics form asks legislators to “describe all beneficial interests in real property held or acquired by you, your spouse or a dependent child during the calendar yearf Fraser checked “not applicable’ In this year’s Legislature, Fraser has championed transparency as an antidote to self-dealing at the troubled Pedernales Electric Cooperative. \(Fraser, like Perry, did not respond to can fine officials who file incomplete financial disclosures up to sio,000. Noncompliance also is a criminal misdemeanor for which prosecutors can seek a maximum penalty of $2,000 and six months’ imprisonment. The empty lot on Horseshoe Bay previously owned by the governor is for sale. Wallace Holdings LLC, which bought the land from Perry, is advertising it with an asking price of $2.85 millionnine times what Perry paid Fraser for it eight years ago. Andrew Wheat is research director at Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan watchdog group. 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 29, 2009
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