Our new property tax appraisals and sticker shock

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Facebook lit up as soon as the property appraisals started landing in mailboxes. It was a bad case of sticker shock.

We can handle a lot of things, like the price of gas creeping up, sometimes faster than we’d like. Or, when food prices start pushing up. We even handled well the possibility that the country could run out of avocados in three weeks.

But many of us blow a fuse when the new property appraisals arrive. It hits us all at once - no creeping up here month after month.

I’m not trying to make a bundle on my house or flip houses for a living. I like watching those shows on TV, but I make my living doing something else. I’m not planning to sell my house, and it could use improvements faster than I can handle them.

We moved into our house in 1989 and raised a family here. If we wanted to move and make some money on it, we would have already done it. With all the increase in petrochemical activity in Brazoria County and people moving here, this is a good time to sell a house.

But I like it here. I like the roots I have put down, the people who live in our community. I’m not going anywhere. I like our homestead. It is filled with family memories.

So when I started reading those Facebook comments, I braced myself for the sticker shock. Then the envelope landed in the mailbox, and I opened it. I hit the jackpot - in reverse. The property’s value had been increased by $16,000.

Others commenting said theirs had increased by as much as $40,000.

I think the Brazoria County Appraisal District is trying to be fair. I also think that property values have gone crazy around here. But there has to be a way to lower the burden on those who have been here a while and are not going anywhere.

Dear reader, even if you have your house paid for, you don’t really own it. The county does. If you don’t pay your property taxes annually, the county puts a lien against the property and will collect it in due time. The taxes and interest accumulate annually, so it’s a bad idea not to pay property taxes.

These taxes are used to fund our schools, cities, county and our security. Without taxation, the social services these entities provide would not exist - like roads, water and sewer, police departments and so on.

But if you are having sticker shock like I am after opening my latest appraisal notice, there is a way to lessen the blow a little. Protest the appraisal and try to work something out informally. If that’s not possible, then you can always file a formal protest.

This may not roll back the property tax to previous levels, but it helps. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The appraisal notice is not a tax bill. It just tells you how much the property may be worth. The taxing authorities set their budgets and tax rates based on these numbers.

After the protest (I hope you got some increase shaved off,) pay attention to the proposed tax rate and the effective rate.

The effective rate is the rate needed to generate the same amount of revenue as in the previous year. If the proposed rate remains the same, you are getting a tax increase because your property is now appraised at a much higher value.

The difference between the effective rate and the proposed rate is your tax increase. Taxing entities seldom talk about the effective rate. They advertise it because they have to, but most of the time we just hear that the tax rate has not increased. But your value has, so pay up.

On a personal note, I’ll be making my trek to the appraisal office and hoping that we can reach some compromise informally. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

(I look forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.}