By Bill Oakey – March 22, 2021
Birds are chirping. Spring is in the air. People are out frolicking, with hardly a care. High above that facade sits an unmerciful God. Reach into your mailbox…but only if you dare!
I offer both good news and bad news. You might qualify for a temporary property tax exemption if you sustained certain levels of damage during the February storm. The TCAD website lists all the details. The bad news is that the Chairman of the Appraisal Review Board has abruptly resigned, because of serious animosity towards him from other board members. That could throw a huge kink into this year’s rollicking tax protest season, which seems to set new records in numbers every single year. The appraisal review process has strained under heavy workloads in the recent past, leading to chaos and legal challenges.
Why Do Austin’s Tax Appraisals Keep Skyrocketing?
The simple answer is that the official mission of our once affordable city has morphed into something rather frightening for ordinary, hard-working, longtime residents. If you look in the City Budget, you will find an organization chart. The little box at the very top is labeled “Citizens of Austin.” The official wording in that box remains the same, as it has since Austin’s founding in 1839. But, unofficially, a single new word has been added.
You may recall a scene from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The first time the animals walked by the big sign on the barn, it said, “All Animals Are Equal.” But the next time they saw it, the message had been altered – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” In the case of our City’s Organization Chart, just one single word has been added to describe the folks in the very top box – “Future Citizens of Austin.”
The powerful special interests who control the City have a mission for you and your neighbors as well – Make way for those wealthy newcomers, and the developers who want to bulldoze your house and turn it into multiple luxury units. For another analogy, think of the science fiction movie classic, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Seed pods were placed outside people’s bedroom windows. Once you fell asleep, the seed pod would burst open to reveal a blank, alien body that had arrived to take the place of yours. The assembled army of new, sinister creatures then tried to brainwash the rest of the town into falling asleep and joining their herd.
That same scenario is playing out here in Austin. This time it’s called “Invasion of the Property Snatchers.” No family is safe, not even from its own members. If your wife comes to the breakfast table looking a bit odd, and speaks in a dull, lifeless tone, get ready to run. Especially, if she says something like, “Oh darling, we were so wrong! High density is wonderful for our neighborhood. It’s too late to stop it anyway. Let them have our lot. We should sell it, or maybe just give it to them…” Jump up from the table and run! As fast and as far as you can. But whatever you do, don’t fall asleep!
How to Open Your Tax Appraisal Notice
By Bill Oakey – Originally published March 26, 2014
Within just a matter of days, something will happen all over Austin that must be approached with utmost caution. That thump and rustling sound that you hear outside your front door could evoke a cold sweat and the starkest feeling of sheer dread and fear. “Could it be out there today?” you might wonder. “Was that really the mailman, or just a bird trying to make another nest?” “Should I actually go out there and look?” “Do I have to?”
All of those are perfectly legitimate questions. But sooner or later, you are going to have to open that door. You are going to have to stick your hand in the mailbox, and find out if this is the day that you were hoping would never come. But I have a few suggestions that might help you get through the process. There may be a way to do it and remain in one piece.
1. With any luck, the “bad envelope” will be buried inside a bundle of junk mail. Grab the bundle and squeeze it tightly, so that you can take everything inside without looking at the envelopes.
2. Once your are safely inside the house, it’s OK to look through the envelopes. But make sure you are sitting down first.
3. If you even think you see an envelope from the Travis Central Appraisal District, don’t open it right away and don’t panic! Take a few deep breaths and look at the envelope again. Make absolutely sure that you saw what you think you saw. Our brains can play tricks on us sometimes.
4. If you are positively certain that what you are holding really is your tax appraisal notice, then you will have to make another decision. When and how are you going to open it?
5. My advice is definitely not to do it alone! If your significant other is not home yet, wait until you can share the memorable experience together.
6. If you don’t have a significant other, or if he/she is out with another significant other, just call a good friend.
7. Depending on your situation, you might want to pour a glass of wine or have some medication handy if needed. I’ve always heard that aspirin is good for a stroke.
8. If the battery is low on your phone, plug it in. You might need to call 911.
9. When you and at least one other supportive person are sure you are prepared, go ahead and get ready to open the envelope. Do not attempt it with a sharp object like a knife or a letter opener.
10. Open your tax appraisal notice.
Sorry, I can’t help you any further. We will all miss you when you leave. Take those fond memories of Austin with you, and come back and see us sometime!
Musical Accompaniment for This Blog Piece
1. “Something’s Coming” – West Side Story, Original Broadway Cast
2. “Getting Ready for the Heartbreak” – Chuck Jackson
3. “Bad Moon Rising” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
4. “Taxman” – The Beatles
5. “Shutters and Boards” – Jerry Wallace
6. “In the Middle of the House” – Vaughn Monroe
7. “Make Way for a Better Man” – Willie Nelson
8. “Home of the Blues” – Johnny Cash
9. “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” – Ray Charles
10. “Little Boxes” – Pete Seeger