Elected Property Appraiser: To Be or Not To Be?

While Amendment One and property tax reform have garnered most of the attention in the upcoming election, another question of much importance that asks voters if they’d like to transfer the duties of the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser from a person appointed and supervised by the Mayor to a person elected and subject to recall by the voters is on the ballot as well.

Of the 67 counties in the state of Florida, Miami-Dade’s Property Appraiser is the only one that remains appointed. Voters elect the Property Appraiser in all other Florida counties.

Victor Diaz, chairman of the Home Rule Charter Review and a proponent of making the Property Appraiser an elected official, was quoted as follows by the the South Florida Business Journal: “there is a lack of information on how taxes are calculated and levied…we think it would promote greater public awareness of how the process works. Property taxes have such a direct and immediate impact on the homeowner’s ability to retain their homes and businesses, that the public should have direct input”.

According to a Miami Today News article, county commissioner and reputed songstress, Rebeca Sosa, said that an elected property appraiser will have to be more responsive in explanations and educating the public about how taxes happen and the setting of policies and formulas. “They’ll have to respond to the public.”

Others like Florida House Representative, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, feel that the Property Appraiser should become an elected position because he keeps hearing “that people don’t think their properties are fairly assessed”.

“A lack of information on how taxes are calculated”? Excuse me, Mr. Diaz. Are we living in the same age? Last I checked, we were all living in the Information Age. According to a Nielsen/Net Ratings press release, nearly 75% of Americans had access to the Internet from home – in 2004. Information on how property taxes are calculated in Florida are just a few Google search words away.

Internet not your thing? You want to hear it from the “horse’s mouth”?

The Property Appraiser’s Office is a public office located on the 7th floor of the Stephen P Clark Center at 111 NW 1st Street in Dwntwn Miami. The public information counter is open from Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Any one of several qualified evaluators will be more than willing to educate the uninformed on the process of how property taxes are calculated.

Furthermore, the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s Office conducts an “Interview Period” when additional resources are dedicated to providing taxpayers with an explanation of their assessment for a period of 25 days after the proposed taxes have been mailed (by no later than August 24th). Differences of opinion on value and any discrepancies can be discussed at this time.

Not satisfied with the Property Appraiser’s opinion of value? File a $15.00 value petition with the Value Adjustment Board and present your case in front of an independent Special Magistrate who decides whether the Property Appraiser’s opinion of value is correct.

Maybe Mr. Diaz, Mrs. Sosa, and Mr. Lopez-Cantera can educate us all on how millage rates, the other side of the property tax equation, affect one’s property tax bills.

The formula for property taxation is as follows:

Property’s Taxable Value x Millage Rate = Property Tax Amount

For some reason talk about property tax reform and the reasons given for electing a property appraiser all revolve around just one side of the equation. The attempt to reform property taxation has, thus far, focused only on how property is assessed in the state of Florida. The other side of the equation, millage rates – also known as tax rates, are set by the various taxing authorities within whose jurisdiction the property is located. The Property Appraiser, elected or appointed, DOES NOT SET THE TAX RATE.

I don’t get it. State lawmakers are trying to correct the side of the equation that they don’t control while completely ignoring the side that they can influence.

According to Florida TaxWatch, a non-partisan nonprofit research institute, which concentrates on statewide taxing and spending issues, total property tax levies in Florida doubled in just the last six years, mostly due to the rising values of existing and new construction that brought along a dramatically increased tax base.

Common sense would tell one that an increased tax base (especially the kind of increases we saw during the housing boom) offers taxing authorities the opportunity to drastically cut the millage rate. Instead, locally elected officials publicly stated that they lowered taxes during the housing boom while blaming the injustice on how Property Appraisers assess properties in Florida.

Just as an example, the City of Miami lowered the city millage an average of just 0.118875 each year from 2002 – 2006. This allowed elected officials to publicly state that they “lowered taxes”, while continuing to generously fill city coffers by squeezing the unprotected tax-paying minority faced with high initial assessed values and/or no protection from Save Our Homes aka Amendment 10.

While I do think that the Property Appraiser and his staff should make a more concerted effort to reach out and educate the public on the benefits of the exemptions available, on how Save Our Homes works, and how they derive market value, I don’t agree that the position has to become an elected one to do so. The current Property Appraiser, Marcus Saiz de la Mora, is more than capable of performing these and all his other duties as Property Appraiser.

All Property Appraisers in the state of Florida, appointed or elected, are required to follow the rigid guidelines of Chapter 193 of the Florida Statutes.

The Property Appraiser’s Office is currently run by a skilled professional with 24 years of experience. I don’t see how the public would benefit from turning an administrative position over to a career politician who knows not what a lot and block legal description is, but knows how to tap lobbyists for cash.

Adding an additional layer of bureaucracy to one already in existence is just not the answer to reforming property taxation.

The opinion expressed in the preceding post is the opinion of Adrian Salgado and is not intended to malign any group, club, organization, company, or individual. The views of the writer are his own and do not, in any way, reflect the views of the broker, principals, or other associates at RED I Realty or RED I Mortgage.

Adrian Salgado is a Realtor Associate with RED I Realty in Miami, FL and can be reached at 305-491-7179 or SalgadoA@gmail.com.

2 Comments

Filed under Elected Property Appraiser

2 responses to “Elected Property Appraiser: To Be or Not To Be?

  1. Probably this shouldn`t be the most important project to deal with to elect a property appraiser but it may come out from the consideration that people tend to believe things which they are able to listen. Finding information about how to calculate the property tax is not a demanding task but to make it generally comprehendable it`s more difficult. As a Toronto realtor I got the chance to experience it many times that a written explanation or information about the property is not enough. The position of the property appraiser can be more than just administrative, I can`t see any catches in it.

  2. Thanks for you input, Toronto Neighbourhoods.

    Understanding the political climate in Miami and who would run should it become an elected position (which I didn’t mention in my post cause it’s just a rumor right now) is what worries me most.

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