Update: The El Paso Central Appraisal District responded to our open records request on October 20, 2021. We have published the new information in this article.
The Texas legislature has adopted new redistricting maps for the upcoming elections. The Texas governor is expected to sign them into law in the coming days. The new version of the new district maps has combined the districts of Claudia Ordaz-Perez and Lina Ortega into one, forcing both incumbents to face off against each other in the next elections.
However, it appears that Ordaz-Perez has decided that she would rather face off against Art Fierro, instead of Ortega.
On October 12, Claudia Ordaz-Perez filed a change of address for her voter registration moving her into Art Fierro’s district, presumably to run against him.
Claudia Ordaz-Perez is married to Vince Perez. They married on November 26, 2016. Vince Perez owns a house on 649 Londonderry Rd., which according to the El Paso Central Appraisal District (CAD), he purchased on June 11, 2013. Vince Perez has claimed a homestead exemption for his house. According to the CAD, a homestead exemption is available to a homeowner who claims the property as their “primary residence”. Each homeowner can only claim one property as their “primary residence”. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the use of a homestead exemption for the purposes of property taxes, a property owner must “use the home as his or her personal principal” on January 1 of the tax year when it is claimed. The same is true of the 65 and older exemption.
Vince Perez has claimed a homestead exemption for his home on Londonderry. According to the CAD, his property taxes were $3,349.20 in 2021. Because of his homestead exemption, he saved $838.48 in taxes.
Presumably as a married couple, Claudia and Vince live together when both are in El Paso. They also live in a community property state where property as a couple is considered as owned by both, although exceptions are available depending on the circumstances.
Ordaz owns a house on 11372 David Carrasco. She purchased it on January 17, 2014. According to the Deed of Trust dated January 17, 2014, she paid $98,188 for the property.
Claudia Ordaz has requested two exemptions for her house. The first is homestead exemption and the second is for homeowners who are 65 years or older. Claudia Ordaz was born on January 13, 1986, making her 35 years old.
Because of her two declared exemptions, Claudia Ordaz saved $1,068.99 in property taxes in 2020. She was assessed $2,829.69 instead of the $3,898.68 she would have been assessed without the exemptions.
Is Claudia Ordaz Committing Tax Exemption Fraud?
A homestead in Texas is a property that is used as a residence and remains a homestead “as long as the individual living in the home owns it.” The form (50-114) used to file a tax exemption request for a homestead requires the submitter to attest that they “own and live in the property.” Making a false statement on the form subjects the signer to a “Class A misdemeanor or a state jail felony”.
In addition to presumably living with her husband, Vince Perez, thus invalidating her homestead status, Claudia Ordaz-Perez filed a change of address with the El Paso County Elections Department on October 12, 2021. In her online change of address, Claudia Ordaz affirms that she is moving into her home on David Carrasco. In essence, Claudia Ordaz is acknowledging that she was not living at her home on David Carrasco, although she claimed she did by using a homestead tax exemption at the CAD. In addition to the homestead exemption, Claudia Ordaz is also claiming a 65 and older exemption. She is 35 years old.
According to the El Paso Central Appraisal District she has claimed both exemptions since 2018. She is also claiming it for the current tax year.
El Paso Politics spoke to an Administrative Specialist at the El Paso Central Appraisal District who did not want to be named by name. In the telephone interview today, the CAD representative confirmed that the homeowner must live in the property to qualify for the homestead exemption. When asked about the 65 and older exemption, the CAD representative said that a homeowner could designate a 65-year or older owner through an affidavit filed with the CAD. When asked if such an affidavit had been filed, the CAD representative said that an open records request would have to be filed for a copy of such a record, if it existed. We filed an open records request today and we will follow up when we receive a response.
When we asked the CAD representative if any complaints had been filed about the exemptions with the CAD on Claudia Ordaz-Perez’ property, they responded that none had been filed as of the telephone interview today.
Is Claudia Making An Address Change To Run Against Art Fierro?
In addition to the questions surrounding her use of the tax exemptions, her recent change of address filing suggests that Claudia Ordaz wants to run against Art Fierro in the upcoming elections instead of running against Lina Ortega. The Londonderry address is the address she used to run for her current seat. That address is in Lina Ortega’s district in the new district maps.
Her home on David Carrasco is in Art Fierro’s district, suggesting that the change of address is for the upcoming elections.
Art Fierro Comments
El Paso Politics reached out to Art Fierro to discuss Claudia’s apparent challenge to his seat. In a telephone interview today, Fierro says he was “surprised” to hear of her challenge to his seat saying that “we just spent months trying to keep them (Republicans) from gerrymandering voters and disfranchising them.”
When asked about her tax exemptions, Fierro said that it is “not surprising for anyone who has followed” Claudia Ordaz’ history of abusive behavior.
In 2015 Vince and Claudia Perez were involved in an incident at a local Whataburger where the police department responded. In 2012, Silvestre Reyes says that he believes that Claudia Ordaz stole a campaign laptop with confidential election data and gave it to Beto O’Rourke to help O’Rourke defeat Reyes. Ordaz-Perez has been involved in several other ethical lapses through her career.
Fierro added that he would not be surprised that El Paso taxpayers would be upset with Claudia Ordaz-Perez for voting for tax increases while claiming tax breaks not available to others.
But Art Fierro made an interesting observation during the telephone interview. He asked if Claudia Ordaz-Perez abandoned her office by making the change of address.
Did Claudia Ordaz Abandon Her Office?
When Claudia Ordaz-Perez filed her change of address on October 12, 2021, she in effect moved out of her current district. She abandoned her office because she left the district she represents. The legislature has approved the redistricting maps forcing Claudia Ordaz-Perez and Lina Ortega to run against each other for one seat. By submitting her change of address, Claudia Ordaz would now face Art Fierro in the next election.
The problem for Claudia Ordaz-Perez is that on October 12 the new district maps were not in effect and are yet to be approved by the governor meaning that she has vacated her seat.
El Paso Politics will continue to monitor the developments on this case and report as more information becomes available.