January 27, 2009

 

 

 

Senator Durell Peaden

598 North Ferdon Blvd.

Crestview, FL 32536-2753

 

Re:  Presentation to Santa Rosa County Legislative Delegation

 

Dear Senator Peaden:

 

Recently, I presented six proposals for your consideration in the legislative process.  I would like to further explain my reasoning for these proposals.  I am providing this information to you in anticipation of your support of my proposals.

 

1.      Recapture Rule

The recapture rule for the Save Our Homes amendment allows homestead property to increase by 3% or the Consumer Price Index whichever is less each year.  The purpose of this amendment was to prohibit homestead properties from increasing at unpredictable rates where citizens would be taxed out of their homes.  This has been the situation since the constitutional amendment took effect.  In current economic conditions, the market value of properties is falling, but usually not below the assessed values of these homesteaded properties.  Thus, citizens are receiving a decrease in their market value, but their assessed value is increasing.  This in many cases will result in a tax increase.  I believe this is not in the spirit of the constitutional amendment approved by the citizens of the great State of Florida. 

My proposal to you sets conditions for the recapture rule.  It is my understanding the Florida Department of Revenue made this interpretive rule.  Chris Jones and I took our attorneys and met with Senator Haridopolos last year and made our proposal to him.  Our attorneys sent Senator Haridopolos a letter with our proposal which is the same proposal I made to you.  If the real estate market continues to decline, it would not be inconceivable for citizens who have lived in their homes for a number of years to have their SOH differential dramatically reduced or completely removed in their tax calculation determination.  Again, our proposal has a house sponsor in Rep. Clay Ford.  We need a sponsor in the senate to move forward with this bill.


  1. Use of Aerial Photography

Last year CS/CS/HB 595 was proposed to allow property appraisers to use aerial photography and oblique aerial imagery to perform audits to ensure statutory compliance with auditing properties every five (5) years.  This requires our office the enormous task of reviewing every property in the county on a five- year basis.  We, as are the state and county, are searching for ways to cut costs and save taxpayers money, and this would allow the property appraisers a method to save money over time.  This will occur when field appraisers can view and audit properties from our office and would not have to travel to the site to make an inspection.  They would be able to work on days where inclement weather would greatly reduce the number of inspections they could make.  This way they could make scores of inspections using aerial photography.  This would reduce the travel and gas for these type inspections.  But when there is a notable reason to initiate an inspection of the property then these will be slated for an on-site inspection.  Of course, anytime a request is made by a taxpayer to review their property then an on-site inspection will be made.

It is my understanding Representative Nelson will be introducing a bill to modify FS193.023(2) with language or similar language that states:  “Where geographically suitable, and at the discretion of, the property appraiser may utilize image technology in lieu of physical inspection to ensure that the tax roll meets all the requirements of law.” 

Please support any effort to reduce the cost of this office by instituting the use of aerial photography for audit purposes.

 

3.      Disabled Veterans with Combat-related Injuries.

In FS 196.082, the legislature granted an exemption for veterans with combat related injuries.  The statute has an age limitation of 65 years of age.  I ask consideration to remove this limitation.  We have veterans who have been injured in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan which would not be eligible for this exemption.  This would seem unfair to those who have given so much and will continue to suffer with their injuries from combat.  I believe this issue should be addressed by the legislature.

 

4.      In 2007, the Florida Department of Revenue sent out a bulletin (PTO 07-18) whereby the department stated they were providing tax roll information and aerial photography free of charge on their website.

 

In 2008, HB 5061 was passed concerning the payment for aerial photography by property appraisers.  This bill authorizes the department to charge counties with a population more than 25,000 for their aerial photography.

 

Four days after I was required to submit my budget to the Department of Revenue for approval, I received a certified letter detailing this bill and its content affect on my office.  They asked for my office to pay the DOR nearly $140,000 for aerial photography.  The citizens of Santa Rosa County are now going to have to pay for aerial photography that the State of Florida will give away on their website.  This seems incredible to me. 

 

In my presentation and the presentation packet given to you was contained a solicitation from Florida Aerial Imaging Service.  This service outlined a very disconcerting solicitation to property owners concerning the loss of their property should there be a boundary line dispute.  This service displayed an aerial photograph with property dimensions in their solicitation.  The charge for this service is $75 for the first copy and $65 for any additional copies.  The company was providing the aerial in a laminated copy for their use.  The lamination costs approximately $4.53 at the UPS Store.  The service is using as their address a box at a UPS Store in Tallahassee.  If they get the aerial maps and tax roll information for free from the Florida Department of Revenue they will be profiting off the information paid by the taxpayers of Florida and using a tactic to scare property owners into purchasing this information that’s not needed nor can it be used in a court of law as factual.  This should not be allowed to be done.

 

This example is in addition to an example I outlined to you in my letter of September 30, 2008.  The taxpayers of Florida should not be the provider of free information to companies or commercial ventures for profit.  I believe any Florida citizen should be able to get their information for free, but any commercial venture should pay market value for information.  This would provide revenue to the counties and should reduce the cost of government to the citizens of our Great State.

 

Provisions should be made in FS 119.07(4)(g) to allow a return to the citizens of Florida for providing information and creating reports for commercial purposes regardless of the intended recipient.  It is not the constitutional requirement of the property appraiser to create reports and provide data and information that is to be used for commercial gain.

 

5.      Constitutional officers are required to operate their budgets on a yearly basis.  They budget and expend on annual budgeted items.  There are no provisions for any carryover of taxpayer funds from one year to another.  I would request that the legislature provide a method for a constitutional office to purchase capital items over a term and be able to amortize the purchase over time and use carryover funds to make the purchase.  This would reduce the spikes in budgets to accommodate for these purchases. 

 

One example I gave in your packet was the purchase of a computer system.  Say the cost of a computer system was $200,000 and the life expectancy of this system is 5 years.  The constitutional officer knows that in 5 years they will have to replace the computer system.  The constitutional officer should be allowed to allocate the projected replacement cost of the computer system over the 5 year period instead of trying to budget for that expenditure in one year.  This would provide the constitutional officer a mechanism to keep their budgets more level instead of having to increase their budgets in years that require large capital expenditures or depending on the commission to fund the entire amount from unbudgeted funds.

 

6.      When monies are returned to the commission, this money goes into the general fund for use by the commission without budgeting and complete disclosure to the public.  I would propose that any funds returned to the commission be used as a carryover fund for capital expenditures (as described in paragraph 5 above).  Any funds returned could be placed into the carryover or reserve account of that Constitutional officer up to the amount needed for that particular year’s reserve requirement.  Any funds over the amount needed to be placed in the capital reserves for that particular year, would be returned to the taxpayer in the form of a millage rate reduction. 

The property appraiser must certify the county’s tax roll to the tax collector.  This occurs after the end of the fiscal year for the constitutional officers.  Therefore, the property appraiser could determine the amount of millage rate reduction for the combined amount of all constitutional officers. 

 

The Schools are allowed to carryover funds from one year to the next, but not any county constitutional officer.  This would provide for a more open government and not keep the taxpayer at arm’s length.  The county should have a mechanism to disclose to the citizens their use of these returned funds.  They would be returned to the taxpayer or the unused funds could be placed in a reserve account, and any expenditure should be disclosed to the citizens.  The reserve funds would be for any contingencies unforeseen by the commission and/or the constitutional officers.

 

I would appreciate any consideration you would give to these, or any bills similar to these, proposals for the citizenry of our Great State of Florida.  You were very gracious and kind to hear my views, and I believe these proposals would benefit our constituency.  Again, thank you for any consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Gregory S. Brown, CFA

Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser

 

Cc:  Senator Don Gaetz

Representative Dave Murzin

Representative Ray Sansom

Representative Greg Evers

Representative Clay Ford

Representative Brad Drake