Mayor Ron Nirenberg (right) and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) wait for the mayoral debate at Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center on April 8, 2019.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg (right) and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) wait for the mayoral debate at Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center. Credit: Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report

A company owned by Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) owes $1,228 in unpaid taxes for company assets, Mayor Ron Nirenberg pointed out during a mayoral debate Monday night.

Brockhouse, the first-term councilman widely considered the main challenger for the mayor’s seat in the May 4 election, said he is disputing the appraised value of the assets – computers, floor shiners, and other equipment used to operate both his marketing and janitorial businesses –  and is challenging the charges with the Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office.

“I’m going to fight it. I think it’s bulls—,” Brockhouse said, adding that he sent in a form to dispute the charge but somehow he missed a deadline to appeal. On Tuesday morning, Brockhouse said he has been in communication with the assessor’s office, which had the wrong address for his business on file – likely the cause of miscommunication and the incorrect appraisal of the worth of his company assets.

“He has no moral ground to stand on when he talks about the importance of taxes and tax relief when he himself is a delinquent taxpayer,” Nirenberg told reporters after the debate. “Meanwhile his colleagues, including me, are actually working on meaningful property tax relief at the state and local level.”

The total market value of Brockhouse’s equipment for Everest Marketing is appraised at $18,780. Brockhouse said he estimates the value at less than $1,000 – far below what other similar businesses have.

He said he made a payment of $150 in May 2018 for the 2017 tax year.

“[Nirenberg] is grasping at straws,” Brockhouse said. “Every citizen in San Antonio that thinks they’re getting screwed on a tax, they’re going to dispute it. … It’s a stunt.”

During the debate, hosted by the Northside Neighborhoods for Organized Development, Nirenberg pulled out a printed page from the tax assessor-collector’s website, drawing a response from Brockhouse.

“Ron’s in trouble. He doesn’t understand neighborhoods and communities. He’s got to do what he’s got to do to make a point at these debates,” Brockhouse said. “He gets very personal very fast.”

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Brockhouse offered Nirenberg a Chick-fil-A lunch as a sarcastic “thank you” for helping him identify the mistaken address.

“I want to thank Ron for potentially helping me win my protest because the document he used as a political prop showed the address of my business was incorrect with Bexar County,” he said in a press release. “This is exactly why we have a protest process. Mistakes can happen and we have a right to challenge the taxation.”

During the past two budget cycles, since he started representing District 6, Brockhouse has voted in favor of motions that would have decreased the City’s property tax rate for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. A half-cent reduction would save the average homeowner $8.45 per year while removing more than $5 million from the City’s budget. Brockhouse and Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) were the lone supporters of a half-cent tax decrease.

“Meaningful” property tax reform, Nirenberg said, the kind that will have a greater impact to taxpayers, “will only come when the State fully addresses school finance reform.”

Nirenberg and Brockhouse have recently supported a study of the property appraisal process as well as City staff-led review of what kind of relief a homestead exemption for residents’ primary places of residences could provide – but are wary of cutting funding from City services.

Taxpayers would save $27 annually on a $100,000 home valuation with a 5 percent exemption, according to City staff. The exemption could cost the City $6 million.

The two candidates also reiterated their stark differences on other matters, including how to deal with climate change, transportation, affordable housing, and public safety that have been discussed at previous debates and forums. They’ll likely continue to spar on those issues and more during future events. Click here to view the Rivard Report‘s 2019 election coverage.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com