The Rotan City Council approved an agreement with Texas Communities Group earlier this month to clean up and market the roughly 35 trust properties scattered throughout the city. The council also proposed the no-new-revenue tax rate, which councilmembers anticipate adopting next month.
Texas Communities Group (TCG) is a real estate brokerage company out of Lubbock, specializing in areas of abandoned properties, vacant structures, and other common problems resulting from a shrinking population. TCG has partnered with roughly 100 small cities across the state including Stamford, Hamlin, Roby, and Aspermont.
Danny Barrett with TCG spoke to Rotan officials in July, giving an overview of the areas of service. The council found particular interest in trust property management, a service Barrett agreed to provide for a reduced rate.
Trust properties have undergone tax foreclosure, put up for auction, but not sold. As a result, taxes are no longer collected on the properties, and the taxing entities — such as cities, school districts, etc. — share ownership. This sometimes includes maintenance costs associated with upkeep, but more often, the structure slowly deteriorates.
“Whether you mow it or demolish it, you tend to get little financial assistance,” Barrett had said. However, Rotan Community Service League President Garreth Pipes — who was also in attendance during Barrett’s July presentation — contacted city officials to offer fundraising efforts to assist with covering TCG’s fee or with costs associated with clean up efforts.
TCG will also be working to improve the salability and will ultimately assist with marketing the properties until sold. This can include mowing or removing debris and, in some instances, possible demolition.
The overall goal is to bring the property to a point it can fetch a higher price. TCG will then work to market properties to persons interested in purchasing such properties through a property catalog and an online bid site that TCG operates 24/7.
TCG also helps to establish interlocal agreements with other entities sharing the trust, which allows 100% of the proceeds returns to the city. The funds are usually kept in a separate account designated specifically for cleanup purposes.
For properties without a tax alternative, TCG works with the city to inform the owner of the issues, whether the property needs to be cleaned up, torn down, or hauled off. Owners would have an opportunity to bring it into compliance or face penalties.
TCG may also assist with vacant and abandoned property seizures. Barrett assured the council that while it sounds aggressive, these would be properties that would not be considered habitable. Additionally, the council would have final veto power over any decision regarding the properties, something councilmembers agreed helped put their minds at ease moving forward.
Another goal for TCG in the months to come will be to help inform people about the process for buying trust properties, wanting everyone to understand how easy is to make these purchases. Barrett said he wants to pull the curtains back and help people see how it is done.
The council seemed no less enthusiastic than it was in July when voting in favor of the agreement earlier this month. “This will help beautify the town by taking care of some of its rundown houses,” said Rotan Mayor Pete Garcia. Councilmembers agreed, looking forward to having a positive impact by cleaning up some of Rotan’s most distressed and deteriorated properties.
Before adjourning the August meeting, the Rotan City Council also proposed the no-new-revenue tax rate of .439532. Like its predecessor The Effective Rate, the no-new-revenue rate generates equivalent tax revenues as the prior year. The council is expected to formally adopt this rate for the 2021 fiscal year during the September meeting.