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Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.
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Property Protest

RECEIVED Mon., Aug. 10, 2020

Dear Editor,
    The pandemic appears to be destined for close to a ¼ million deaths in the USA. If you filled your property tax protest around "the May 15th" deadline but it was delayed a few days by the slower than normal US Post Office, you should be granted an exception. Despite the Governor Abbott conducting a lockdown, and reducing staff in Texas state government offices during the March to May timeframe, many tax payers were affected and got the “sorry, your protest is late.” Travis and Williamson County Property tax protests rose up until this year. The number of tax protests in Williamson Appraisal District increased by about 110%; from 29,770 in 2014 to 50,040 in 2018. Williamson County Appraisal District 2018 property tax protests include 39,630 residential and 18,410 commercial accounts. In 2019, Williamson County property tax protests increased to 55,000 (72% increase). However, for the 2020 tax protest year, the number of property tax protests in Williamson County for the first time in 3 years decreased to only 52,000, a decrease of 5%. The Williamson County ARB chair, Carol Frey, claims “The number of timely protests received demonstrated that it was still possible to meet the [sic] deadline despite the various local and state ordinances to shelter-in-place.” How can a tax chair innocently believe that the first decrease in property protests for the last three years during a national pandemic is “normal” and not a sign of a problem? So you probably want to complain, don’t you? Well, that’s too bad. There is no one to complain to, no oversight, and no appeal. Letters to the attorney general's office or the governor's office will get no responses. Texas citizens need to carefully consider the run-away Gestapo-like tactics and power of the Texas Property Tax Board system, which has no review and acts on whatever a lone individual tax chair decides. It doesn’t sound American and definitely doesn’t sound Texan.
Michael Barber

Don't Like M&O? Say So!

RECEIVED Thu., Aug. 6, 2020

Dear Editor,
    On Aug. 3rd, the Austin Community College Board of Trustees proposed a property tax rate that requires a public hearing. The reason was due to the debt service rate increase and no reduction in the M&O tax rate.
    Even given a large revenue growth due to property appraisals they did not propose a reduction in the M&O tax rate. Has their M&O rate ever gone down? It didn’t in the last five years while appraisals were skyrocketing. Other taxing entities routinely lower their property tax rates when property appraisals make a significant jump. The cities of Georgetown and Pflugerville and Leander ISD have already proposed lowering their tax rate and I expect other taxing entities will do likewise. Many taxing entities also freeze the property tax rate for seniors and the disabled. Let the ACC board know your thoughts. Participate in their public hearing on Sept. 14th.
Mark Bofferding

Reporting, Not Repeating

RECEIVED Thu., Aug. 6, 2020

Dear Austin Chronicle,
    You are to be applauded for your coverage of how the Austin police has used the Wall Street Journal’s “homicide report” to argue that the city of Austin should continue to fund police at their current level ["Police Chief Fights Back as Council Cuts APD Budget," News, Aug 7]. As Chris Harris pointed out in your story, Austin has an extremely low number of homicides per year and an extraordinarily low homicide rate. While Police Chief Manley has recently stated that Austin has experienced the highest national percentage increase in homicides during 2020, it would be more accurate and helpful for him to report the actual numeric increase in homicides, which is nine more homicides now compared to the previous year of 2019. In a time of heightened stress throughout the city, the last thing residents need is for our local police to be scaring the hell out of them with exaggerated overstatements about homicides. Finally, it is a shame that other local news media have elected to repeat, rather than to report on, Chief Manley’s statements about homicides. While the media should provide the police perspective, they also have a duty to provide other perspectives, even if those perspectives critique the official position of the chief.
W. Carsten Andresen
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