Sylvia and I stopped by Randalls in Westlake yesterday for early voting. Upon presenting my voter registration card to the lady who checks ID, she reprimanded me for having trimmed it to a size that fits into my wallet.
The voter registration cards in Texas are the size of a standard postcard. This makes it inconvenient to carry in a wallet. So I trim the excess off the top and bottom with scissors, making the card the same height as a drivers license. Then, when folded in half sideways, it fits perfectly in my wallet, with the relevant info intact.
Anyway, the election worker proceeded to inform me NOT to trim the card next time because I chopped off the bar code that the scanner reads and now she has to enter the info manually into her laptop instead of just scanning it. I told her I’d never been told that. She then proceeded to tell me that if it takes an extra minute to enter my info, I’m holding up the line and causing other people to wait longer than they should have to. I said “oh, would you like to scan my drivers license instead?” She said “no, I already have you up here” (on the laptop screen).
This was all spoken in earshot of at least the first 3 or 4 people in line behind me. I considered saying “hey, Old Lady, shut up and just do your freaking job”, but I instead apologized for having trimmed my card and causing her the extra effort of typing my name into her screen.
Is it the polling worker’s job or duty to issue such reprimands and lectures to voters? No, it’s not.
I just received a letter from the Travis County Appraisal District with regard to my upcoming property tax protest hearing. Instead of having the hearing, they want to just offer a lower value now, by mail. If I agree, I can just sign the letter and mail it back. The value will be lowered and I won’t have to attend a hearing for this particular property (though I still have several other over-valued properties awaiting hearings).
The original appraised value for this property, which is a rental house we own in SW Austin, was $196,772. TCAD is offering to drop it to $172,236, which is a value I can live with. In fact, I wasn’t expecting to do that well at the hearing, so I guess I’ll sign the letter and send it back.
Here’s what the letter says. It starts off with:
“Based on an analysis of sales data the indicated value of your property is $172,236”
Translation: “We did a very poor analysis the first time. Because we’ve been deluged with property tax protest requests this year, we decided to do a proper analysis and would now like to set your appraised value at the correct amount instead of incompetently and unfairly over-assessing your value”.
The letter goes on to say:
If you agree with our analysis, we can serve you better by helping you avoid a trip to our offices. If you agree, please sign and date the enclosed Settlement and Waiver of Protest form, and return it to the district using the postage paid envelope…
I’m mailing mine in back in. The county is smart to take this approach, which we are seeing for the first time ever. It’s not that hard to get the assessed value closer than a 15% error, especially in neighborhoods such as the one in which this subject property is located, which are mostly homogeneous, similar homes of similar age and size.
But this raises the question as to how the “analysis” performed by TCAD could been about 15% too high in the first round. Is this an admission that they don’t really try that hard to get the number right in the first place? Well, we already know that they don’t. But I know how to fix that, if I have my way during the next legislative session.
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