Dave Lieber

Dave Lieber

Well, he said it.

Asked at a recent editorial board meeting of the Denton Record-Chronicle why there was a record number of property tax protests last year, Denton County chief appraiser Rudy Durham had a quick answer.

As I watched live on Facebook, Durham, who is also Lewisville’s mayor, blamed me.

“There’s a consumer watchdog that is encouraging people to file a protest. Not so people can get their properties corrected. He wants to mess up the system and shut it down and prove a point is what he said.

“This is Dave Lieber of The Dallas Morning News. And that’s his words that he was trying to shut the system down. I don’t know if it’s personal or what.”

A bit later, his deputy chief appraiser, George Clerihew, doubled down, saying, “We just ask that you do a little homework first, not like Dave Lieber said, file a protest to break the system and that type of thing.”

Overwhelm, not shut down

Yeah, it’s personal. It’s personal for millions of Texans who are in shock at this confusing, unfair, unequal, nontransparent tax system based on estimated guesses of a property’s value.

Two years ago, I announced my apparently successful “Everybody file a protest” campaign. (We even have a flag!)

If more property owners filed protests, I wrote, “appraisal districts will be overwhelmed with workloads like never before. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s your legal right as a Texan to file a protest every year, even if your taxes don’t go up, and even if your school taxes are frozen because you’re a senior or disabled.”

I explained that appraisal districts rush to finish because of deadlines. “Overload the system like never before, and in return, appraisers would have to settle cases in greater numbers than ever to clear their calendar by the state’s July deadline,” I added.

Do I still believe this?

Heck yeah.

There’s a reason your appraisal notice comes with a sheet explaining how to protest.

There’s a reason that we have the “Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights” in Texas, which states, “You have the right to protest your property’s value and other appraisal matters to an appraisal review board composed of an impartial group of citizens in your community.”

So, in honor of chief appraiser Durham, I hereby reactivate the “Everybody File a Protest” campaign for 2019.

Remember the deadline to file a protest is May 15.

Watchdog’s guide

To make it easier to file a protest and teach others what I know about the system, I put together a “splash page” on dallasnews.com with a dozen of The Watchdog’s property tax stories. The Web address is bit.ly/WatchdogPropertyTax. The headline is, “What you need to know about your Texas property tax protest — and how to protest from Watchdog Dave Lieber.”

Wave the flag!

My special project

Personal news: I wrote a play about a giant in Texas history, Amon G. Carter Sr. AMON! The Ultimate Texan is about the Fort Worth media mogul best remembered for his ridiculous rivalry with sister city Dallas.

It will be performed May 9-25 at Artisan Center Theater in Hurst. Birdville ISD board member Kelvin Dilks, a retired teacher and popular actor, stars in the one-man play.

I wrote a companion book of the same name about this bigger-than-life character that will be released when the play opens.

The project will be unveiled on Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. at UTA Libraries’ sixth-floor atrium, where I’ll be speaking to the Friends of the UTA Libraries on “The Making of the Amon Project.” The address is 702 Planetarium Place, Arlington, 76019.

You’re invited to this event at a perfect location because many of the 100 photos I used in the book come from this library.

The event is free, and no reservations are needed. Free parking is arranged for guests in Lot F10, two blocks from the library near the corner of West 4th and Southwest streets. (Permit requirement is waived.) The Maverick Garage is closer at 708 S. West St., but there’s a fee.

Learn more about my project at AmonPlay.com.

Back to watchdogging

Here’s some great news you probably missed.

The FBI is shifting its mindset from its prime focus on fighting terrorism to fighting cyber criminals.

The Wall Street Journal reports that law enforcement action is taken in less than 1 percent of malicious cyber incidents.

This is long overdue. In the past decade, I’ve watched a growing number of cyber criminals taking advantage of the lack of investigations and prosecutions.

#txlege happenings

Quick update on The Watchdog’s pet legislation in the Texas Legislature. The much prayed-for roofers’ registration bill is proceeding in the House. Same goes for the data privacy bill.

The property tax solution is still up in the air. The Watchdog is hoping that in addition to the big bill — Senate Bill 2 — other system reform bills make it to the finals.

One of my favorites, Senate Bill 1086, would reduce the maximum-allowed increase in a year for appraised value of “real property” (any land and property attached to it, not just a homestead residence) from 10 percent to 5 percent. It’s scheduled for a hearing April 23 in the Senate Property Tax Committee.

If you’d like to help push these bills, sign up for my periodic newsletter by sending your email address to me at watchdog@dallasnews.com or join “DallasNews Watchdog Posse” group on Facebook.

Last week, dozens of posse members sent emails to key lawmakers in favor of the roofing bill.

Get money

Final note: Have you checked the website ClaimItTexas.org lately to see if you or any of your family members have unclaimed money in the state treasury?

When a reader asked me about a company offering to find her money, I sent her to ClaimItTexas.org first.

While there, I checked and found $260 for my wife and $60 for my daughter. They can claim it for free.

If you get a note from a company offering to find unclaimed money for you for a price, check that website first.

Recommended for you