In the past 20 years of home-ownership I have had to protest my property taxes twice. Today I went before the appraisal board because they had increased the appraised value of my home 85%. The first time was around 8 years ago when they had denied my agriculture exemption request. These were different circumstances and in two different counties. However, in both cases the appraisal board gave me what I asked for.
What was the trick? While I did prepare to argue my case, I don’t think it was the information I brought with me that made the biggest difference. The county appraiser was there and presented convincing evidence as well. I think it was who I brought with me. The first time I brought my son who was around 9-years old at the time. Today, I brought along my 7-year old.
The appraisal board is typically made up of retired men & women. They spend the day dealing with angry home owners who are upset about what they see as an unfair tax liability. They are not expecting someone to walk in with a little boy. When I did, both times I could see the faces of the board members light up. They started asking my sons questions and teasing with them. It lightened the mood of the room when my little boys walked in. While I will never know if the outcome would have been different if I went alone, I can see how having my sons with me caused the reviewers to look upon my situation with a bit more compassion than had I just been another upset homeowner wanting them to lower my taxes.
There is another benefit of talking children along to these kind of meetings. Of course, I coached my son about proper behavior and explained to him how to answer questions if he was asked. I talked to him about the importance of sitting still and listening. In short, this was a great teaching opportunity for my son. He also got some experience in how to deal with government officials. I believe it also helped me to watch my own example more carefully. I was intentional about being polite and respectful. My son was able to watch his father present his case and learn about how to behave in a situation he wasn’t used to. He will remember this for years. If he ever has to protest his taxes or deal with any other similar situation he will be able to look back and approach the situation with less insecurity because he has been there before. This build’s confidence. I was also able to praise him for the good behavior he displayed and tell him I was proud of him for helping me. In the end, my son had one question. “Did we win?” “Yes!” We won in more ways then you even know young man.