The Dallas Morning News’ Everton Bailey Jr. breathlessly reported Friday that Mayor Eric Johnson and his wife are protesting the appraised value of their East Dallas home. Despite pushing “for the city to have the lowest property tax rate of any major city in the region,” Bailey said with a touch of snark, “the mayor is looking for some financial relief himself.”

That’s kind of right.

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First, I should say writing for Advocate Magazine is a side gig for me. Appealing property taxes is the full-time family business. Eric Johnson is one of our clients, and we filed his appeal.

The appraised value of the mayor’s 5,000-square-foot-plus home near White Rock Lake rose from $280,000 in 2013 to $1.8 million this year. That’s an increase of more than 540% over ten years. Homeowners all over Dallas can relate because we’ve also seen steep increases in value at our own addresses. But if you have a homestead exemption, as the mayor does, you’re entitled to a 10% annual cap which keeps your tax increase manageable and predictable. The mayor’s protest isn’t likely to reduce his tax bill — even his brilliant advocates probably won’t get beneath that cap. He’s working to keep his value increases accurate and equitable.

And even the Mayor of Dallas deserves reasonable representation.

The Dallas County Appraisal District isn’t an all-knowing, all-seeing entity. They determine home values based on market trends and comparable sales. But no one knows your house as well as you do. County officials can’t see through walls. They need you to inform them about the eccentricities of your particular property — both good and bad — to assist in valuing your home for tax purposes. The accuracy of the tax rolls depends on owner input.

If you believe DCAD has overvalued your home, you’d be wise to exercise your rights to an appeal as Mayor Johnson and thousands of Dallas County homeowners have. Here’s a trade secret: Tell DCAD officials something about your property they don’t already know. Your efforts could result in tax savings. (Note: The deadline has passed for this year, but you may still file a late appeal if you believe DCAD has made a “substantial error,” such as overvaluing your home by 25% or more.)

So, back to the homestead exemption and the 10% cap: If Johnson’s home rose by 30% in one year, and his dedicated tax consultants got the increase reduced to 15%, his taxes would still increase by only 10%. If Johnson doesn’t protest at all and simply accepts the 30% increase? Same result. His taxes would increase by 10%. So why should homeowners protest at all? It benefits DCAD and it benefits the taxpayer to keep values accurate in the system.

Of course, that assumes you’ve secured a homestead exemption.

Did you know that thousands of Dallas families are entitled to a homestead exemption but are not registered for one with DCAD? In some cases, they don’t know how to file the required paperwork. In others, they inherited the home from a family member who died without a will, so they lack clear title. According to the Child Poverty Action Lab, 73.8% of a sample of homeowners in southeast Dallas’ Jubilee Park pay needlessly high property taxes simply because they lack a homestead exemption. For those families, a 40% increase is a 40% increase, not 10%. And that’s year-over-year.

Here’s the good news: Property values — and the general economy in Dallas — are growing. The bad news: Virtually all Dallasites are paying higher property taxes every year. Landlords pass these increases along through rent hikes. Even businesses are feeling the pinch with commercial property taxes, and businesses pass increases along by spiking the cost of their product or service.

Here’s more good news: Toler Company is working pro bono with local service organizations and nonprofits to help homeowners in underserved neighborhoods, especially West Dallas, secure the homestead exemptions which will help them afford their property taxes. If they can’t pay their property taxes, these families — many with young children — may not be able to remain in their homes. The Dallas Morning News’ Dave Lieber wrote about that effort here. You may learn tips for protesting your own property taxes in an Advocate Magazine article here.