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Friday, June 8, 2007

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Why the Reeves County Appraisal District
Chief Tax Appraiser ought to be fired, tarred
and feathered, and run out of town…

There are few things lower in my “Book of Low Things” than public officials who abuse their power.

The Reeves County Appraisal District Chief Appraiser, Carol King Markham, is just this kind of skunk.

Let me tell you why.

This all started more than a year ago. Some of you may remember the column I wrote last year when I found out that, according to the Reeves County Tax Appraiser, our home in Barstow had increased in value from $24,000 to $30,000.

Last year’s column began like this:

“Wanted: Property Value Appraiser …Qualifications: Blind or damn near. Must not have passed third grade. IQ below room temperature on a December day in a drafty room helpful.”

Needless to say, I did not agree with the appraisal, and nobody ever accused me of being subtle.

So, having done all I could to ingratiate myself to the chief tax-potentate, I appealed the appraisal.

At first, my appeal was based on the plain and simple fact that the Tax Appraiser had evidently lost her mind, because there was no evidence anywhere to be found that any land near Barstow had risen in value in the past 50 years, and ours certainly did not unless she were counting the really nice chicken coop Mom built - which apparently she was.

I knew I would probably lose - government bureaucrats don’t let common sense deter them often.

But then…

Ah, but then I discovered a law.

Now, here is the deal. Barstow, because of its unique location, is appraised by two different appraisal districts, since it is in Ward County, but is encompassed by the Pecos school district.

The Ward County Appraisal District appraises Barstow properties for Ward County while the Reeves County Appraisal District’s appraisal is used by the Pecos school district.

The law, which can be found in the Texas Property Code, Chapter 6, Section 6.025, says this: When property is appraised by two appraisal districts then both districts have to use the lowest appraisal.

When I checked my Ward County valuation, I found out that the Ward County Appraisal District was not verifiably insane and had valued our home at $16,690 - quite a bit less than the $30,000 Reeves County claimed it was worth.

So, for all these years, according to Texas Law, the valuation that should have been used by the Reeves County Tax Appraiser was the lower valuation.

Apparently, we’ve been getting ripped off for years.

So, along came my appeal date - the day you get to go before the Chief Appraiser and the Appraisal Review Board and explain to them why their appraisal is nuts.

I think I made a decent presentation. I’m not the world’s best attorney, but I can get by.

I didn’t try to play Perry Mason. I showed them what we paid for the house in 2003, that there were no recent sales in the area to justify the new appraisal, and that, none of this mattered because Texas law said they had to use the lower valuation - and they had to change my valuation.

I did not even stick my tongue out.

Well, I did a little, because, after handing out copies of the law, I presented them with my demand for the illegally collected taxes from year’s past to be returned to me.

Notice I say Illegally Collected. I’m not whining about a valuation I simply do not agree with - I’m whining about this bunch of Jesse James’ breaking the law and stealing money.

Then I thanked everybody for their time and left.

Want to guess what the Appraisal Review Board did?


I handed them and Ms. King Markham a copy of the law, and they ignored it, and told me to take a hike.

They did not even change my valuation to match the lower one - much less return the money they stole in years past.

Well, no thank you ma’am.

I did not borrow half of Fort Knox to pay to spend three years studying at the Texas Tech School of Law to get jacked like that and walk away with my tail between my legs.

In September, I sued the whole bunch of them - the Chief Idiot, the Appraisal Review Board and the Pecos school district that received these ill-gotten funds.

It cost me $406 to file the petition and get them all served.

I was suing them to make them use the legal valuation, and to get the $344.25 they stole in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Well, apparently, the good Chief Appraiser suddenly found religion and decided to repent her evil ways, because it only took a few short days for a letter to arrive informing me that my appraisal had been changed to match the Ward County Appraisal.

Gee, a big “Thank You” to everyone involved for forcing me to spend $406 to make ya’ll do what the law demanded you do in the first place.

On the other hand, the letter did not mention my refund of stolen money.

Then the letters and documents from big law firms in Austin and Odessa started hitting my desk like bricks.

That is the beauty of being a citizen in this country. When you sue some government twit, they get to use your tax dollars, which in case they stole, to hire the best in legal representation, to try to keep from having to give back the money they stole.

There is some irony in that.

Eventually, I folded up my tent. I simply did not have time to run the business, take time with my family, and fight that many lawyers over $344.25. They stole it. But the juice is not worth the squeezing.

I hated to do it, but I figured I had won the important part. I made Ms. Carol King Markham abide by the law. I made her do the right thing.

And now, I am sticking my tongue out. Now, there is one more order of business.

Folks, I said it before - there is nothing lower than a public official that uses her position to jack with people just because she does not like them.

I’m sure my first column peeved Ms. King Markham.

I am also sure that she should have known about the law in the first place and should not have been robbing the citizens of Barstow for all these years.

I am also sure that, even if she did not know about the law, once I handed it to her, she should have made every effort to comply with the law - which she has sworn to uphold.

I am also sure, that she did not. Instead, with the tacit approval of the Review Board, she continued to disobey the law, because she was peeved that I dared call her valuation stupid.

So, she is either too stupid to add two-plus-two and get four, or she ignored the law just to be spiteful because I made fun of her valuation in my column.

Either way, she needs to be sent packing.

If she’ll try to settle her personal vendetta with me like this, how many other people are getting ripped off because they angered her?

And how many people is she overcharging just because she can?

And how many people are getting a sweet deal on their taxes, just because they are buddies with the chief appraiser?

I got my justice. Well, a little bit. I could afford to throw away $406 to get it.

My bet is that not every tax-paying citizen in this district has that luxury.

Now, according to the State of Texas, the Reeves County Appraisal District is run by a board of directors that are appointed by the taxing entities - the county commissioners, the school board, the hospital district, the town of Pecos, and a couple of others.

These directors are Ms. Markham King’s bosses, and her actions are their responsibility.

The only right thing for them to do is to fire her law-ignoring fanny.

If they will not, then the elected officials that appoint this board - the county commissioners, the school board, the Pecos city council and all the rest - need to be removed from office at the next election and replaced with people who can at least tell right from wrong, and who will then act on it.

PS. All you folks in Barstow need to check your valuations - I’m betting mom and I are not the only homeowners that have been getting robbed by these bandits. Personally, I think there might be grounds here for a class action suit against everyone involved - maybe then we could get our stolen money back.

PSS. I got my new valuation from Reeves County recently. Guess what? My taxes went up again. I wonder what the odds were of that happening?

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