As we reported yesterday, we submitted an open records request to the El Paso Central Appraisal District inquiring whether an affidavit had been filed by Claudia Ordaz-Perez for the 65 and older exemption for her home. During the telephone interview we were told that we must submit an open records request to answer our question.
Today we received two replies to our open records request. In the first reply we were told that “at this time there are no affidavits that have been filed” by Ordaz-Perez. In addition, the open records response told us that the El Paso Central Appraisal District “sent an intent to remove exemptions” notice to Ordaz-Perez.
In our reporting from yesterday we pointed out that it appeared that Claudia Ordaz-Perez had improperly taken tax exemptions on her home for several years. About an hour and a half later we received a second response to our request.
In it, the Central Appraisal District representative apologized and told us that “an affidavit was found.” The CAD attached the affidavit. The affidavit was filed by Martha Ordaz stating that she was “applying for a residence homestead exemption for property owners who are age 65 or older.” Martha Ordaz stated in the affidavit that she owns 40% of the house.
In reviewing the affidavit, we noted that it was dated on April 22, 2020.
This raised two questions for us. The first was whether the affidavit filed in 2020 also covered 2018 and 2019, two years that the 65 and older and homestead exemptions were also applied. We also wondered if a 40% home ownership was sufficient to provide the full exemption. We asked the CAD to clarify these doubts for us.
In response to our request for clarification, the representative for the El Paso CAD wrote that exemptions for the property were provided “for 2018 and forward.” The CAD also wrote that the 2020 exemption “can cover exemptions for prior years.”
To our question on whether 40% ownership was sufficient for the exemptions, the CAD representative wrote that, “yes 40% ownership interest is sufficient for the full exemption.”
To our knowledge there is no deed providing Martha Franco 40% ownership of the house, however, the affidavit notes that it is for those who have “ownership interest not of record,” meaning that the ownership need not be publicly recorded.
The affidavit clarifies the property tax issue in that it provides for the use of the exemptions as per the information we received from the El Paso Central Appraisal District.
However, two questions remain unanswered.
The first is whether Claudia Ordaz-Perez has vacated her office by leaving her district. Per her change of address filed on October 12, she has left the district that elected her. The second unanswered question is whether she will be running against Art Fierro in the upcoming elections.
By moving into her home, Claudia Ordaz-Perez has moved into Fierro’s district under the redistricting maps that await the governor’s signature. Thus, if she runs again, she will be running against Fierro as a challenger and not as the incumbent.
We continue to monitor this developing story and we will report as more information becomes available to us.