Property tax protesting is not one of my favorite activities

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

There are certain things I really don’t look forward to, like going to the dentist, getting a colonoscopy, or heading down to the Brazoria County Appraisal District offices to try to bring my property appraisal back down to Earth.

My dentist is really nice, and I overcame that fear a long time ago. I’m not going to make any comments on colonoscopies. People my age know what that is all about. But I try to put off going down to the appraisal office, using every excuse available to me. Then I start running out of time, and there I go.

The last time I was there a few years ago, the place was packed. It took about three hours to see an appraiser. It took about an hour and a half to get my driver’s license renewed in person in Angleton last year, so you see why I was trying to find any excuse not to go to the appraisal offices this year.

But my assessed property value was just crazy high, and the visit could not be put off any longer. They didn’t single me out. Residential property values have been shooting up for a while with all that industrial expansion down here and the housing market lagging behind the demand.

When it’s a lopsided seller’s market, like today, that’s what property values do – they shoot up. I understand that part. But there has to be some way to keep property assessments reasonable for people who are not flipping houses or moving anywhere in the foreseeable future.

The parking lots around the courthouse and building where the appraisal district offices are were packed. This is going to take a while, I thought. People are probably jammed in the hallway, like last time.

I finally found a spot and headed over to the office, which was, to my surprise, empty.

“Either there is court going on, or the third floor is packed, judging from all the cars,” I said to the friendly receptionist.”

“It’s the courts,” she replied, and sent me on my way to the third floor, which was also empty of people – just me, sitting in a chair for a few minutes, waiting to see an appraiser.

Then I got to make my case.

“I know that values around us have been going up,” but this is the same house you assessed in 2015 and before that,” I started. “I’m not going anywhere, and this year’s appraisal is way too high.”

What do I base that on? Numbers on the appraisal notice. She didn’t ask me anything about surrounding values. She could look that up. I know what has been built around me, but I can’t help that. I didn’t make the market go crazy. I’ve been living in the same house since 1989.

There are a lot of memories in that house. We raised a family, celebrated many birthdays, weathered a few hurricanes. We have good neighbors.

The neighborhood is safe and family friendly. There is nothing wrong with it, except for the fact that values in the city are artificially being driven up by high demand and low supply.

The appraiser was looking on her computer screen and stayed busy on the keyboard the whole time I was talking. I better shut up and let her work, I thought, so I stopped talking, even though I was in the middle of commenting about something off-topic. I think it was softball.

The house value came down to almost the same level as last year. I understand that you can’t stop progress, and it had to go up some. We agreed. I really didn’t want to go through a formal protest. It was a good deal, and I took it – for now.

I have to give credit to the appraisal district employees, who treated me with the utmost courtesy.
“I’m glad we could work it out,” said the appraiser.

“I am too. I’ll probably come see you next year again,” I replied as we shook hands.

That was painless and turned out better than I expected, especially minus the long waiting line.
There is no savings realized yet. That may or may not occur when the taxing entities set their rates later this year for 2020. That’s when the new value is applied to the new rate.

If the entity keeps the property tax rate the same on higher, that leads to a tax increase. If they lower it to the effective rate, then your taxes will be the same as this year. The effective rate is the rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as in the previous year.

I know that government entities need taxes to provide services, and I really don’t have any problems with paying my fair share. But taxing entities also have to realize that not all property owners can grow money on trees – oranges, yes, but not money.

If you missed the May 15 protest deadline, dear reader, keep an eye on what your local governments are doing when the time comes to set a tax rate. They do it in public, and discuss it thoroughly before taking a vote.

If you don’t like crowds, those public meetings are a good place to go. Chances are that you’ll be one of the few people there to give your opinion on the tax rate.

Even if things don’t go your way – all the way – you’ll get a good view of how your local government works.

(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.}