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Featured: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class JoAnn Consiglio, assigned to Navy Officer Recruiting Station Harlingen in Texas, is joined by other sailors of Navy Recruiting District San Antonio and Navy City Outreach Southwest Region, including Lt. Cmdr. Diana Tran-Yu of Navy City, in discussing grassroots perspectives on opportunities, benefits, and careers in the Navy to students during Latina Day on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at the Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology (HESTEC) Week on the Edinburg campus of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Photograph By BURRELL PARMER

With scores of Texans preparing to pay their 2017 annual home property taxes, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is reminding military veterans, and the surviving spouses of first responders who were killed or fatally injured in the line of duty, that there are new laws in place that can help many of them reduce the bills on their primary residence. “Home ownership is a vital part of the American Dream, and I have always supported efforts to provide property tax relief to Texans, such as local property tax freezes for homeowners who are 65-years-of-age or older, and for homeowners who have physical disabilities,” said Canales. “This year, I successfully authored House Bill 217, which provides property tax relief for certain veterans who have a disability, and I voted to place two other measures that protect homeowners on the November 2017 statewide constitutional amendments election ballot, where they were subsequently approved by voters – House Joint Resolution 21 and Senate Joint Resolution 1.” The House Research Organization, which is the nonpartisan research division of the Texas House of Representatives, provides the following background and goals of HB 217, HJR 21, and SJR 1, which became state law in 2017: House Bill (HB) 217 – Canales was the author of HB 217 while Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, sponsored Canales’ bill in the Texas Senate – provides veterans who are disabled, in the instances they were not protected under now-former Texas laws, the ability to defer collection of property taxes or the abatement of a foreclosure/sale of their home due to delinquent property taxes; House Joint Resolution (HJR) 21 –  it was approved by Texas voters as Proposition 1 during November 7, 2017 state constitutional amendment election– fixes a shortcoming in current law that unfairly resulted in increasing the financial burden on a veteran with a partial disability who paid some amount of the cost of a donated home; and Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 1 – it was approved by Texas voters as Proposition 6 during the November 7, 2017 state constitutional amendment election – allows a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas offers a variety of partial or total (absolute) exemptions from appraised property values used to determine local property taxes. A partial exemption removes a percentage or a fixed dollar amount of a property’s value from taxation. A total (absolute) exemption excludes the entire property from taxation. Taxing units are mandated by the state to offer certain (mandatory) exemptions and have the option to decide locally on whether or not to offer others (local option). (https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/exemptions/

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New state laws will help more military veterans with disabilities, and surviving spouses of first responders who died in the line of duty, to qualify for property tax protections, says Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

With scores of Texans preparing to pay their 2017 annual home property taxes, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is reminding military veterans, and the surviving spouses of first responders who were killed or fatally injured in the line of duty, that there are new laws in place that can help many of them reduce the bills on their primary residence.

“Home ownership is a vital part of the American Dream, and I have always supported efforts to provide property tax relief to Texans, such as local property tax freezes for homeowners who are 65-years-of-age or older, and for homeowners who have physical disabilities,” said Canales. “This year, I successfully authored House Bill 217, which provides property tax relief for certain veterans who have a disability, and I voted to place two other measures that protect homeowners on the November 2017 statewide constitutional amendments election ballot, where they were subsequently approved by voters – House Joint Resolution 21 and Senate Joint Resolution 1.”

The House Research Organization, which is the nonpartisan research division of the Texas House of Representatives, provides the following background and goals of House Bill 217, House Joint Resolution 21, and Senate Joint Resolution 1, which became state laws in 2017:

• House Bill (HB) 217 – Canales was the author of HB 217 while Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, sponsored Canales’ bill in the Texas Senate – provides veterans who are disabled, in the instances they were not protected under now-former Texas laws, the ability to defer collection of property taxes or the abatement of a foreclosure/sale of their home due to delinquent property taxes;

• House Joint Resolution (HJR) 21 –  it was approved by Texas voters as Proposition 1 during November 7, 2017 state constitutional amendment election– fixes a shortcoming in current law that unfairly resulted in increasing the financial burden on a veteran with a partial disability who paid some amount of the cost of a donated home; and

• Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 1 – it was approved by Texas voters as Proposition 6 during the November 7, 2017 state constitutional amendment election – allows a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder.

According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas offers a variety of partial or total (absolute) exemptions from appraised property values used to determine local property taxes. A partial exemption removes a percentage or a fixed dollar amount of a property’s value from taxation. A total (absolute) exemption excludes the entire property from taxation. Taxing units are mandated by the state to offer certain (mandatory) exemptions and have the option to decide locally on whether or not to offer others (local option). (https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/exemptions/

Allowing Veterans With a Disability to Delay Payment of Home Property Taxes  and Stop Foreclosure Because of Delinquent Property Tax Payment

Prior to the Texas Legislature’s passage of Canales’ HB 217, veterans with a disability were not allowed to defer (delay) collection of a property tax if they did not qualify as fully-disabled under the Texas Tax Code.

Under the Texas Tax Code retirees and disabled persons are allowed to defer (delay) collection of a tax, abate (stop) a suit to collect a delinquent tax, or abate (stop) a sale to foreclose a tax lien. This was created to help retirees who were living on fixed incomes and having difficulty paying ever-increasing property tax bills.

Under Section 33.06 of the Tax Code, a disabled veteran that is not fully-disabled is not entitled to deferral or abatement under the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Program, commonly known as Social Security.

Veterans, no matter their level of disability, physically or psychologically, deserve more support after making sacrifices for the United States. Veterans with a disability can face similar challenges in meeting financial obligations that persons over the of 65 and disabled persons such as covering tax obligations on their homes.

HB 217 provides that all veterans with a disability the power to defer (delay) collection of a tax, abate (stop) a suit to collect a delinquent tax, or abate (stop) a sale to foreclose a tax lien.

Once a veteran no longer owns their home or lives in it, all the taxes, penalties, and interest become due after 180 days and the taxing units may proceed with a lawsuit to collect delinquent taxes if the taxes remain unpaid.

Sec. 33.06, has been in effect since 1979. It was created to help retirees and the disabled who were living on fixed incomes and having difficulty paying ever-increasing property tax bills.

Section 33.06 allows a resident three ways to temporary relieve difficulties with property tax payments Current and delinquent taxes can be deferred — but not cancelled — as long as the owner continues to own and live in the home.

An individual would file a tax deferral affidavit (Form 50-126) with their County Appraisal District with any necessary supporting paperwork.

A filed tax deferral affidavit keeps homeowners from losing their homes because of delinquent property taxes, it stops a pending sale to foreclose on the homestead’s tax lien, and stops a taxing unit from starting or continuing a lawsuit to collect delinquent taxes.

However, Section 33.06 does not stop property taxes from being assessed against the homestead property does not prevent the tax lien from attaching to the homestead property, and does not prevent interest from accruing on the unpaid taxes.

Residential Property Tax Exemption for Partially Donated Home of Veterans With a Partial Disability

Texas Constitution, Art. 8, sec. 1-b(l) allows the Legislature to provide a partial homestead exemption for a veteran with a partial disability equal to the percentage of the disability only if that homestead was donated at no cost to the disabled veteran. Tax Code, sec. 11.132 creates this exemption.

HJR 21 amends (changes) Art. 8, sec. 1-b(1) of the Texas Constitution to allow the Legislature to entitle a veteran with a partial disability to a partial homestead exemption on the value of a homestead that was donated at some cost to the veteran, as long as the cost was less than the market value of the homestead.

Unlike a veteran with a partial disability whose home is donated in full, a veteran who paid part of the cost of a donated home receives no property tax exemption on its taxable value. This can lead to a sizable property tax bill that the recipient may not have anticipated and an ongoing cost that the veteran may not have the income to offset. Veterans in this situation are at risk of losing a donated home to unpaid property taxes, even if that home was built or renovated specifically for the individual’s disabilities, with features such as wheelchair-accessibility.

Veterans have sacrificed much for the state, and the Legislature should afford them certain benefits and attempt to address injustices when it finds them. In this spirit, HJR 21 confers the same well-earned property tax exemption to a veteran with a partial disability who paid something toward the value of a donated home that is currently received by veterans with a partial disability whose homes were donated in full. No veteran with a disability should be at risk of losing a home that is specifically donated to accommodate their needs due to an ongoing, unaffordable property tax burden.

Residential Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of First Responder Killed or Fatally Injured in the Line of Duty

SJR 1 provides that a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty is entitled to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder.

Texas Constitution, Art. 8, sec. 1(b) requires that all real and tangible personal property be taxed in proportion to its value unless exempted under the Constitution.

SJR 1 amended (changed) the Texas Constitution to allow the surviving spouse of a first responder who was killed or fatally injured in the line of duty to a property tax exemption of all or part of the market value of the spouse’s residence homestead, if the spouse had not remarried. If the surviving spouse moved to a new homestead after receiving an exemption, the Legislature could entitle the spouse to an exemption on the new homestead equal to the dollar amount of the exemption for the previous homestead in the last year in which it was received.

The Legislature could define “first responder” and prescribe additional eligibility requirements for the exemption.

SJR takes effect on January 1, 2018, and applies only to a tax year beginning on or after that date.

SJR 1 provides the same well-deserved property tax exemption given to surviving spouses of veterans and disabled veterans to surviving spouses of first responders. The spouse of a fallen first responder loses a source of income, which can jeopardize his or her ability to pay property taxes and may ultimately affect the ability of surviving spouses to maintain their homesteads. SJR 1 helps ensure that families in these situations were not forced to sell their homes due to this sudden property tax burden. The tax exemption would be appropriate considering the significant sacrifices made by these families.

Navy Participated in STEM Event at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Campus in Edinburg

Sailors and support personnel of Navy Recruiting District San Antonio, Navy City Outreach Southwest Region and the Navy’s diversity office participated on Tuesday, October 3 and Wednesday, October 4, 2017 in Student Leadership Day and Latina Day during Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week on the campuses of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg and Brownsville.

The educational conference featured events geared toward promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, education to people of all ages and backgrounds.

During two Student Leadership Day breakout sessions, Lt. Andrew Descrary of the  Navy Civil Engineering Corps and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Toth of Navy Recruiting Station McAllen – an electrician’s mate nuclear – briefed and discussed the 15 military leadership traits.

“It’s important for students to learn and understand leadership,” said Descary, a native of Bakersfield, California. “It will instill those qualities that every leader needs to be successful, not just in the Navy, but abroad in the world.”

Exposure to Different Environments

Mónica Longoria, a teacher at South Texas Business, Education and Technology Academy High School, in Edinburg, said it is important for students attending HESTEC, which had events held at the Edinburg and Brownsville UTRGV campuses, to be exposed to different environments.

“I believe that giving students the opportunity to expand their knowledge in the areas of STEM is beneficial,” she said. “Student Leadership Day helps reminds us that our students are potential leaders. The leadership characteristics briefed to the students by the sailors are those expected by any organization in the world.”

Latina Day was held Wednesday, October 4, 2017 to celebrate and promote women in the STEM fields.

Hundreds of young Latinas from throughout South Texas were brought together to hear the inspiring stories of prominent women of all colors succeeding in careers and job tracks once exclusive to men.

Houston native Lt. Cmdr. Diana Tran-Yu of Navy City Outreach Southwest – along with Petty Officer 2nd Class JoAnn Consiglio, a logistics specialist; Petty Officer 2nd Class Karen Quepons, an interior communications electrician; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Brianna Crayton, a quartermaster, all from Navy Recruiting District San Antonio – discussed grassroots perspectives on opportunities, benefits, and careers in the Navy.

They also served as role models to inspire young Latinas to pursue a career in the STEM fields.

Claudia Cortéz, an engineering teacher at Gladys Porter High School in Brownsville, had attended the conference as a student and now as a teacher.

Great Opportunity

“This was a great opportunity for the girls to be exposed to careers that are in the Navy,” Cortéz said. “It is good for them to see that there are females in the Navy and that they can have a career in the Navy just as the men.”

Cortez noted that the culture is in the Rio Grande Valley is family oriented.

“There are many that wish to stay close to their families and their communities,” she said, “but having these sessions with the Navy and other organizations provides them insight to explore opportunities outside the valley.”
Through the support of sponsors and partners, including the Navy, Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week strived to empower teachers and administrators with the resources to inspire their students to pursue STEM careers through Educators Day, Student Leadership Day, Latina Day, Robotics Day, the Middle School Challenge, and the Navy’s SeaPerch Challenge Competition.

Additionally, during the Fall Career Expo, university students were provided with employment and internship opportunities, and the community as a whole took part in Community Day.

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Burrell Parmer contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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