The state deadline for property tax protests is, by law, May 31. Don't wait until the last minute, because mail delivery can be slow. Contact your appraisal district by phone or online to get the ball rolling.
Unlike others who played the online property tax protest game in the last month and saw their property taxes lowered, I didn't fare so well. The Tarrant Appraisal District's computer system rejected my low-ball offer.
Undeterred, I took another shot this week at my first Appraisal Review Board hearing. My strategy: Ask for the same reduction in my appraised value that the computer program wouldn't accept.
Here's is what I learned:
Don't be intimidated by the process. The computer protest is easy. But an in-person visit after an unsuccessful online protest isn't difficult. Three people hear your protest, and a staffer from the appraisal district politely argues against you. It's not formal.
Don't feel the need to get technical. An appeal doesn't have to be about square footage and comparable sales. I ignored all that and instead made a simple argument seeking equality. A neighbor a few doors down on my block lives in the same model house as I do, yet his appraised value is lower. Or an argument can be something as simple as, "Here's an estimate that shows I need to spend $8,000 on foundation repairs, so my value ought to be lower."
Expect to win. Be positive. My gut feeling is that many who go in come out with at least a token reduction. The key: Board members need to hear a reason to go along with a protester's request. Give them that reason. I did and got what I asked for.
A bloody mess
This one gives me the heebie-jeebies.
A medical study on blood transfusions is about to begin, but patients enrolled don't necessarily get a chance to consent or decline. Most likely, they will be too badly injured to do so.
Severely injured people who need massive blood transfusions and who are brought into any of a dozen Level 1 trauma centers across the U.S. and Canada will get one of two blood packages.
Some will get one unit of plasma, one unit of platelets and one unit of red blood cells. Others will get the same amount of plasma and platelets but two units of red blood cells.
Only later does the patient or a relative get to say they don't want to be in the study. By then, though, the original massive transfusion most likely will be completed.
The project is run by University of Texas Science Center at Houston. Those who don't want to take part must contact the program at 713-500-7298 and ask for an "opt out" bracelet or ID card.
"If a person has this bracelet on when they arrive to the emergency department needing treatment, they will not be screened or enrolled in this study," a program announcement says.
Does that sound fair? A study that gives some critically injured people less blood than others, and the only way to stay out is to wear a bracelet?
Ticket the ad
A funny new Click It Or Ticket public service announcement on TV produced on behalf of the Texas Transportation Department is, for me, ruined by an inaccurate tagline. The commercial shows a loudmouthed dude in the back seat of a car who gets a ticket for not wearing his seat belt.
A narrator ends the ad with, "It's a new law."
Only it's not.
A state law that requires everyone in a vehicle to wear a seat belt took effect three years ago. Whenever a commercial ends and you hear yourself saying, "That's not true" -- that means it's a lousy ad.
It's bad enough when TV ads for retail products exaggerate and misrepresent. My pet peeve is when government ads do the same. Why? Because we taxpayers pay to produce these ads.
Two years ago, I wrote about a TV ad for the state lottery that led viewers to believe that they needed one losing ticket to enter a second-chance drawing when they actually needed two.
A Transportation Department spokeswoman says the phrase is used in the seat belt ad because many Texans don't know about the law. So it's new to them.
I feel ripped off. Remember when a new car always came with good solid tires that lasted 30,000 to 50,000 miles? I learned the hard way that some automakers and/or tire manufacturers are cutting costs by putting low-grade tires on some new cars.
The tires on a family car I bought two years ago lasted less than 30,000 miles. By then, a couple were bald, though they had been rotated as recommended.
The limited warranty for the Bridgestone Firestone tires on my car makes no bones about it. It says tires are not covered for "rapid tread wear or wear-out. Original equipment tires have no mileage warranty."
I'm a big believer in great tires. You only have to skid off the road once in a rainstorm, as I did 30 years ago, to become that believer.
When I inquired at the dealership where I bought the car, I was told to consider myself lucky. One car owner said she had to replace the tires after only 20,000 miles.
Watchdog tip: Don't assume anymore that new-car tires will last. Check and replace them sooner than later. Figure that into your budget because new tires today are more expensive than ever. Consider negotiating for better tires when you buy a vehicle. And always buy the best tires you can afford.
Sunday: An insurance company quadruples a premium on an 85-year-old man's life insurance policy.
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Dave Lieber, 817-390-7043