Struggling businesses face expensive property tax bills

Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase, "Nothing can be certain except death and taxes," and a Spring restaurant fears one may threaten the other.

Richard Andrews operates the Potatoe Patch, on FM 1960, and invested heavily to reopen his restaurant in early May to cater to the minimal customers that were allowed inside. At the time, he said it was the only way he could meet expenses he knew were coming. "Your property tax doesn't decrease 90%," Andrews said, at the time.

The observation was prophetic. Andrews says he, now, faces a $59,000 property tax bill, that he can't pay. A sparse lunch-crowd, on a recent day, suggests how slow his recovery has been. The money that was set aside for taxes has been spent on keeping the doors open. "We struggled through. We paid the lights; we paid our payroll; we've kept the employees working; caught up on light bills, gas bills, water bills. But $60,000 dollars? That's impossible," says Andrews.

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He says the utility district, which taxes him, has not offered any relief or answers. The management company that takes care of Memorial Hills Utility District business did not return FOX 26 calls for information, either. Additionally, the Harris County Appraisal District tells FOX 26 it is relying on an attorney general opinion that the pandemic does not qualify for the kind of natural disaster that could trigger a legal reappraisal.

Harris County commissioner Adrian Garcia is not impressed, "I think that's just asinine."

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Garcia has championed a number of financial assistance programs, during the pandemic, but says property taxes are beyond his control. He's heard concerns, like those from the Potatoe Patch, and points the finger at Governor Abbott and the state government, Garcia says the state is sitting on billions of dollars worth of Care Act funding that could help Texans, and he wants to see it spent. "I'm not quiet. I'm not shy," says Garcia, "We need the state of Texas to step in and be helpful. Don't be absent. Be helpful."

Richard Andrews says his tax bill is due by the end of August, and while he'll protest the amount, he needs it to be cut in half to be affordable. He is not optimistic, and dreads finding out what happens when he, and other businesses, are unable to pay that bill.