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Farmer Builds Private Border Wall, County Punishes Him With Crippling Taxes

McAllen, TX – The Hidalgo County Appraisal District wants almost a half a million dollars in property taxes from the sugar cane farmer who owns the land where a three-mile stretch of border wall was built with private funds.

The county notified Lance Neuhaus, of Neuhaus & Sons, that his previously “agricultural” property had been reclassified as commercial based on the addition of the border wall, the Border Report reported.

The Hidalgo County Appraisal District told Neuhaus that the assessment on his property located south of Mission had skyrocketed and had become worth millions of dollars more than it was when the farmer committed to the border wall project.

The county invoiced Neuhaus for $434,733 in property taxes for 2020, according to the Border Report.

The appraisal on the same land ran $272,000 in 2019.

But after the county reassessed the farmland along the Rio Grande with the portion of border wall that had been completed, it changed everything about the way the land was valuated.

In fact, the appraisers jacked the value of the same two plats of property up so high that the Hidalgo County Appraisal District created an eight-page “Border Wall Analysis” to send to Neuhaus to help explain where they’d come up with the new numbers, the Border Report reported.

The analysis explained that the new valuation of the property was based on President Donald Trump’s administration’s estimated cost of $20 million per mile to construct the wall.

Jorge Gonzalez, assistant chief appraiser for Hidalgo County, told the Border Report he had discounted the appraisal by 20 percent to account for local economic factors.

Gonzalez said the 2020 assessment of $434,733 was based on the 38 percent of the wall that had been completed in January when the appraisal was done.

“That is the net rate of $16 million per mile because of the border wall structure they put up,” the appraiser explained.

Documents also showed that the county changed the property’s designation to “commercial” at the same time they issued the new appraisal, according to the Border Report.

He said the new tax appraisal was sent to Neuhaus earlier in the year and he did not appeal in May or June before the county’s tax rolls had been certified.

But Gonzalez also said the property owners would have another opportunity to appeal the appraisal September, the Border Report reported.

The outstanding balance is due to the Hidalgo County Tax Collector’s Office, a totally different entity from the division that did the assessment, by Jan. 31, 2021.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said he didn’t like the wall but was happy about the tax revenue it was generating for the county, the Border Report reported.

“It’s a lot of money,” Cortez said. “The appraisal district did that. I’m not happy that the wall is there for so many reasons, but I’m happy that they’ll pay taxes on it.”

“I think it will help with future endeavors for people to understand that if they put up a structure like this they’ll be assessed taxes on it,” the judge added, according to the Border Report.

The estimated taxes due for 2020 on the land were based on current tax rates, but the local entities control that and might still change them.

Under the current tax rates, Hidalgo County gets $116,700, Mission Independent School District gets $251,582, and South Texas College would receive $35,173, the Border Report reported.

Gonzalez pointed out that if the border wall was still standing as of Jan. 1, 2021, it would be re-appraised yet again based on the fact the wall has been completed since the previous assessment.

That means it will be appraised at 100 percent of the value of the wall, not the 38 percent of it they were charged for in the nearly half-a-million-dollar assessment, the Border Report reported.

Construction of the wall had been delayed by restraining orders from federal court that weren’t lifted til January.

Multiple federal lawsuits remained pending against the private border wall, including claims the structure violates international water treaties with Mexico, according to the Border Report.

The group who organized the “We Build The Wall” fundraising campaign were indicted by federal prosecutors on Aug. 20.

The indictment alleged that Bannon and Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage lied to donors when they claimed they would not receive compensation for their part in the efforts, The Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors have said that Bannon received more than $1 million in payment through a non-profit he controlled and Kolfage received more than $350,000.

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Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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