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People Rich Enough To Own Boats Find It Easy To Evade Taxes

Galveston County is getting screwed out of about $33,000 in property taxes from a League City marina. The county knows about it, but doesn't seem to care.

On the Wharf Marina web site, it says plain as day (if you don't take into account spelling and grammatical errors) that wet slip owners "must pay property tax on there respective slip (Galveston County tax; League City tax; Clear Lake School [District] tax) it's about 100.00 a year."

After hearing some rumors around the docks, one marina resident did some checking and was shocked at what he found from the county: A bunch of people haven't paid squat in years.

"I don't understand how the appraisal district hasn't reacted in 25 years," the resident tells Hair Balls. "I was in high school the last time some of those people paid taxes."

The people who haven't paid include the marina board president, Chuck Clements, and vice president, James Grafton, who owe $3,008 and $619, respectively. The Wharf at Clear Lake Association owes about $4,600 on five slips.

"I like the marina, and the people that don't have to pay taxes don't really care to keep up their property," says the marina resident. "That's my motivation, but I don't think it's a bad motivation."

The slips are privately owned, not rented, and the tax figure is based on the land that's under water. The county appraises the slips on a average of about $2,500, but according to the marina's web site, slips can sell for between $10,000 and $25,000.

Hair Balls called the Galveston County tax office, where an employee told us that the county was aware of the uncollected money.

"We can't hold them down and make them write us our checks," says the employee, who wished to remain anonymous until Cheryl Johnson, the Galveston County Tax Assessor/Collector, could give us an official explanation. "We send out letters to these people continually, they're not special treatment. They have just chosen not to pay their taxes and we will get to them."

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Galveston County contracts with the law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, which also collects for the City of Houston, Harris County and HISD.

Linebarger spokesman Joe Householder says in an e-mail to Hair Balls that the firm is filing lawsuits against several of the delinquent slip owners, but he didn't specify which owners.

Householder added, "No one, no matter their position in the community, is exempt from paying their fair share of taxes. There are times, however, when certain accounts are not given high priority because it is not in the economic best interest of our client."

-- Paul Knight

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