Get ready to play Godzilla at your Rating District’s King Kong

Have you ever received your little “blue love note” by post?

It’s what Tarrant County Judge Glenn Whitley sarcastically calls the Annual Assessment Notices we receive every year on blue paper from our friends at the County Assessment District.

I haven’t had one yet, but The Watchdog is fearless. I went to my list of properties on my assessment district’s website, and the numbers that will haunt me are there for the world to see.

Holy tax moly! I saw something that shows the inequities and injustice of the Texas property tax system. No, it’s not my property. It’s about my two neighbors. Let’s call them Lefty and Righty.

Lefty, on my left side, has a grass garden. (He looks adorable on his riding mower.) But he doesn’t have a pool. Meanwhile, Righty has a fully landscaped backyard with a swimming pool.

Yet somehow, Lefty’s property without a pool has a market value of $200,000 more than Righty’s. It’s a huge difference.

If Lefty doesn’t dispute his market value this year and knocks off some of that 200,000, he will pay much higher property taxes as long as he owns his home. So much for the so-called fair and equitable taxation where, as far as I’m concerned, appraisers guess what a property is worth and hope you’ll let it go.

By the way, Lefty’s house is 500 square feet bigger, but a difference of $200,000?

I’ve been running my “Everyone File a Protest” campaign for many years now. I even have a flag.

The “Everyone File a Protest” campaign, launched by The Watchdog at the Dallas Morning News, is a creative way for Texas homeowners to try to lower their taxes and protest an unfair system.

In a Watchdog column next week, I’ll unveil my 2022 strategy to help you win your protest without even going to the Assessment District Offices. I’m working on the details, but I know you’ll love it.

This is going to be a banner year for tax protests, or really, valuation protests. Many property owners will take advantage of their right in Texas to protest and prove that the appraisal guessing game is wrong.

The other day I hosted a 90 minute protest webinar with two experts – Glenn Goodrich of PropertyTax.io and Will “The Shark” Wiggins of North Texas Property Tax Services. We’ve covered dozens of contentious topics.

Want to see this video? Email me at [email protected] with “Add me to the newsletter” in the subject line and your email address in the body of the email. And you’ll receive my fun Watchdog Nation Wednesday night newsletter with a link to the video and future news and stories from me. Online registration here.

This property tax story affects everyone.

Hey, you know those 100,000 people who moved into the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area last year? I worry about them. They’re still trying to figure out chicken fried steak, and now we’re hitting them with it. Tell them and your friends about The Watchdog. I will be doing a lot of property tax columns in the weeks to come.

If you know a landlord who owns rental properties in Texas and was grumpy last week, here’s why: Small commercial property owners who can’t afford expensive law firms to go to court for them are against the wall.

And attention to the tenants: if you think you are off the hook, I have news for you. Your landlord is figuring out how he can raise your rent to help cover the cost of his huge property tax hike. Unless you’re living off-grid in a cave, there’s no escaping it.

People ask me: who should I hire as a property tax agent to represent me? Well, do it yourself works. But if you want to hire someone, I recommend a company that only charges you if they win for you. A company that seeks an upfront block fee has no incentive. Win or lose, they always get paid. No.

I love how the aptly named Goodrich puts it, “Don’t sit still this year. Your goal should be to reduce your value this year and prepare for tax savings next year. You probably won’t save any money this year, but sitting still could be costing you hundreds or even thousands over the next three years.

Just say. Did you know that some states only reassess a property every 10 years?

Watchdog Dave Lieber says a county assessment district is like King Kong, so you have to enter...
Watchdog Dave Lieber says a County Rating District is like King Kong, so you have to enter like Godzilla.(Richard Drew)

I didn’t know in the first few years I lived here (when I was trying to figure out white sauce) that you could protest. I had just paid the tax bill through escrow on my mortgage and forgot about it. Now I call it sucker play.

My wife Karen will kill me if I don’t remind you that I translated the gibberish of Proposition 1 in the May 7 election. Prop 2 is easy. It increases the homestead exemption from $25,000 on a principal residence to $40,000. (Hey, all newcomers, it’s like a discount where they don’t apply that part of your appraised value to tax. Make sure you have a property exemption listed on your primary residence if you own it ).

On Prop 1, you’ll see language on the ballot so bad that even the lawyers don’t understand it. So I translated it: Do you approve of people with disabilities or over 65 who have frozen school property tax bills seeing their school tax reduced year after year because state funding for school districts increases and claws back the difference?

Hey, did I mention that a while ago I started putting all my property tax stories going back eight years on one web start page? Visit https://bit.ly/2020Protest.

Remember, this is only part of the war to make tax collection fair and just. Once the assessment district has played King Kong to your Godzilla, your account is forwarded to tax entities: school, county, city, college, hospital district. These tips set the tax rate, which is multiplied by your estimated worth to get your annual tax bill.

I don’t mind paying taxes, but at Property Tax Central the ultimate goal is fairness, transparency and accountability.

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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ top column writing award. The contest judge called his winning works “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”

Read his winning columns:

* Assist the widow of Officer JD Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, to be buried next to her late husband

* Help a waitress injured by an unscrupulous used car dealer

Penny D. Jackson