The Watchdog knows that sometimes you have to keep gnawing on the bone to really get to the bottom of it. So here is my update on some of our favorite issues: spam harassment, trampling on the big credit companies that are supposed to watch over you, property tax misery and more:
Recently I told the story of decorated Vietnam veteran, William Lindsey of Dallas, who lost the use of his longtime home in Dallas to a renovator who took Lindsey’s home apart with a blueprint. to improve it. But he left, leaving the house uninhabitable.
Sometimes the veteran had to sleep in his car.
At the end of July, Lindsey’s wife, Pearlie, died.
The widower told me that the stress of home ordeal contributed to his death. She died of sadness, he said. Condolences from The Watchdog, Mr. Lindsey.
Equifax does it again
The worst of the three major credit bureaus is collapsing again. The Wall Street Journal reports that, over a three-week period, Equifax sent incorrect credit scores to lenders “resulting in higher interest rates and denied applications.”
It affected millions of people applying for car loans, mortgages and credit cards. Scores were up to 20 points off the actual score, higher or lower.
Do you remember how, in 2017, Equifax was responsible for the biggest data breach in history? The data grab revealed the personal details of nearly 150 million Americans.
Equifax officials say everything is settled and they are working with lenders to resolve the issues.
It seems very worthy to me.
Property Tax Postcards
For property owners, the postcards I told you about from your county tax assessor/collector that lead you to your proposed property tax rates are coming in the mail.
But there is a problem. Several recipients have asked The Watchdog why it costs $1 or $1.25 to get your property’s tax data when it should be free.
The answer, as far as I can tell, is that these people are typing in the incorrect web address for the postcard on their computer, tablet, or phone. They end up on a paying site.
Type exactly: Texas.Gov/PropertyTaxes for the actual site. Don’t type it into Google. Type it in the web addresses box.
One less letter and you could end up on another website.
The real web address, shown above, takes you to your county’s site, and from there you type in your address for the numbers. Free.
Protest your tax rate
The purpose of the postcards, in addition to showing you proposed tax rates, is to direct you to an email link to complain or compliment your elected officials before they vote on a property tax rate.
Here are the terms to remember
The proposed tax rate this is what the government plans to approve (after two public hearings) in its new budget.
The tax rate without new income is the rate that would bring in the same amount of money as the previous year.
The voter approval rating is a rate that increases enough to cause a mandatory election for voters to approve or disapprove of the larger increase.
Look for many entities to offer a rate just below the voter approval rating, which avoids an election while generating the most money possible.
The non-new income rate is the worthy goal to fight for.
Denton County Uproar
The watchdog cannot stress enough the significance of a recent decision by Denton County Commissioners. Last week they voted no confidence in the Denton Central Appraisal District.
Worse still for embattled chief assessor Hope McClure, commissioners refused to approve the assessment district’s budget.
County Judge Andy Eads made sure to mention in his remarks that the Assessment District “is separate from the county.” Once again, the district is behind in certifying land values.
Eads chastised the rating district for asking for a 17% budget increase which he called “out of touch”.
He said the district had missed deadlines for the past three years and leaders were “full of blame and apologies.”
A zero budget is as bold a protest as it gets. You don’t see that happening.
Denton City Council joined the commissioners in voting to also disapprove of the new budget proposal.
Chief Assessor McClure told me that state law allows each government covered by the assessment district to have a vote on its budget.
“Denton County has 61 voting entities,” she said. The commissioners represent only “one in 61”.
“The Assessment District cannot work and assess more than 465,000 accounts a year with just 87 employees,” McClure said. “By not approving this necessary budget increase, it will unfortunately hurt Denton County landowners, towns and schools in the long term.”
McClure dug in, but so did the county commissioners. McClure can reduce his proposed budget and try again.
D-FW ranks high, but it’s bad
Finally, Dallas and Fort Worth have scored high in a few recent polls.
But this is not good news.
In a study sponsored by Landline Landscape Report, Dallas ranked fourth among the cities whose residents receive the most fraudulent landline calls. The study claims that the typical landline user spends 45 minutes a week dealing with unwanted calls.
In another First Orion competition, 2,100 cellphone users who receive scam calls were surveyed. Dallas “earned” second place in the nation for most calls. Fort Worth finished third. The winner? San Antonio.
Common phone scams include: vehicle warranties, health care, social security, insurance, financial aid, housing warranties, fake government agents, and financial services.
The worst states for this are Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Michigan.
I can’t vouch for the accuracy of these polls, but I share the results, so you see one thing.
You’re not alone.
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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ top column writing award. The contest judge called his winning works “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”
Read his winning columns:
* Assist the widow of Officer JD Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, to be buried next to her late husband
* Help a waitress injured by an unscrupulous used car dealer