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Appraiser sets value, not tax rate
By MIKE WELLS, Pasco property appraiser
Published September 6, 2007
My office recently mailed more than 300,000 Notice of Proposed Taxes (TRIM) to Pasco County taxpayers. These notices are intended to communicate what your proposed property values and taxes will be based on market conditions and the property's condition on Jan. 1, 2007. The notice is broken into two distinct sections - the "Proposed Ad Valorem" section and the "Proposed and/or Adopted Non-Ad valorem" section.
The ad valorem section, which means based on value, indicates what your proposed property taxes will be, by the taxing authority. The non-ad valorem section lists assessment amounts that are collected like taxes but which are based on factors other than values. The newest non-ad valorem assessment is the $47 drainage assessment to all residences in the county.
All assessments and millage are set by the individual taxing authorities. This office is not responsible for tax rates or special assessments. The taxing authority's phone numbers are on the trim notice as well as the time and place of their final budget hearings.
This year is not unlike previous years in that we have received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails from taxpayers. I understand the frustration many experience by increased values meaning increased taxes when large reductions were promised, property insurance rates continuing to rise when large reductions were also promised, and a new drainage assessment that caught many off guard. We at the Property Appraiser's Office are easily accessible and are ground zero for hearing problems and questions involving many areas of government and do all we can to answer them directly or refer inquiries to the proper agency.
I can't lower or raise your taxes. My authority extends only to the market value, assessed value and taxable value. We do what the real estate market tells us to do. Limiting my involvement in the taxation process is an illustration of the separation within government. The Florida Statutes and the Florida Constitution, which prescribe certain confines as to how property is to be valued for taxation purposes, further guarantees a limit of my power.
I could see some softening in the real estate market from late 2005 through the beginning of 2007. That is why my staff was directed to place the greatest emphasis on property sales that occurred in the last quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, a position that, while not immediately endorsed by the Florida Department of Revenue, did provide the best measure of value for Jan. 1, 2007, which is tax day in Florida.
Some property owners have noticed a decrease in market value while others have noticed an increase, which is a testament to the localized nature of property values. It does appear some sale prices since Jan. 1 of this year are showing a decline in value. If this trend continues, values could well go down next year.
Like a rock?
Promises of tax rates dropping substantially simply didn't happen. If you are a homesteader and the market value of your home exceeds its assessed value and your home's assessment increased 2.5 percent this year, your home's taxable value increased 2.5 percent, regardless of changes in its market value. The increase in the assessed value is based on how the Florida Supreme Court interpreted the "Save Our Homes" provision was to work. Regardless of a declining market, I must increase the assessed value of homesteads 2.5 percent this year which is the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Florida Department of Revenue. Extending this to taxes, a 5 percent decrease in tax rate and a 2.5 percent increase in the assessed value can, at best, yield a 2.5 percent decrease in taxes. Keep in mind that any decrease in ad valorem taxes can be easily negated by new or increased non ad-valorem assessments.
My primary responsibility is to annually create a tax role for use by taxing authorities for the purposes of generating revenue for their individual budgets. My office sets value, the School Board, Board of County Commissioners, city councils, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Community Development Districts and others set tax rates and special assessments. The new drainage assessment was levied by the Board of County Commissioners. The legislation requiring reduced local spending is a product of the Florida Legislature.
If you have questions or concerns about your value, please contact my office and my staff or I will explain how we arrived at your assessment and attempt to address your concerns. As your property appraiser, I want to provide an understanding of the methodology used to calculate your taxable value. If you think your taxes are too high and want to address tax rates and non-ad valorem assessments, please make use of the contact information included on the TRIM notice or visit my Web site at www.appraiser.pascogov.com that now includes links to contact information to all your elected officials. Just click on the Supervisor of Elections link on the individual parcel page.