Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rallies protest Miami-Dade property taxes

In the August 27, 2009 Miami Herald story "Rallies protest Miami-Dade property taxes" Charles Rabin says South Florida residents are upset with rising property taxes. They do not seem to be seeking fewer government services, however. The article fails to mention that tax increases are necessitated by the January 29, 2008 passage of Amendment One to the Florida Constitution. The amendment was marketed to the public as a guarantee of lower property taxes by allowing homeowners to exclude more of their property from taxation. Yet, the advocates failed to sufficiently explain that property tax rates could rise. Indeed, if more property is excluded from taxation, property tax rates must rise if property tax revenues are to be maintained. Local governments typically use property taxes as their primary source of income. And if the amendment causes property tax revenues to be insufficient to cover the costs of the government services (such as police and fire protection, schools, and garbage collection) that citizens expect, it necessitates increases in other taxes and fees. If one considers all sources of revenue for local governments, the effect of the passage of amendment one has been to shift the tax burden away from the rich (because they can exclude up to $500,000 of property value from taxation with the portability provision) to the less affluent.

According to article by Rabin:
Upset with skyrocketing property taxes over the years, a group calling itself Fair Property Tax For All is coordinating a series of protests Thursday afternoon at three sites in Miami-Dade County.

The protests are timely: By Thursday, most of the county's homeowners should have received their trim notices in the mail -- early property tax slips that give all the county's homeowners a peek at what their final tax bill may be.

Many homeowners probably won't be thrilled with what they see: Their homes dropping in value, but their taxes going up.

One reason: When county commissioners declined to set a tax rate in July, it forced the property appraiser to set the rate at the rollback rate. As a result, despite a decrease in home values, revenues to the county would be the same as they were last year.

And despite the value of most people's homes being lower this year, it means your property tax rate still could rise.

County commissioners have yet to set the final rate.

Another issue that has some seething: Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia declined to include foreclosures when tabulating property values, which are primarily based on the sales of homes in your neighborhood.

``It gives you abnormal values on a house,'' argues Fair Property Tax President Dr. Jose H. Valladares. ``They're not worth what it says.''

Other variables that will influence your tax bill include how much less your home is worth this year than last, if the municipality you live in raises its tax rate, or what the county's School Board ultimately decides to do with its tax rate.

After mandated public hearings, all property tax rates must be set by the end of September.

What is certain: The amount shown in the window of the trim notice that says how much you owe cannot be raised. By law, the county and municipalities are required to set a ceiling before public budget hearings begin in September.

The protests are planned for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the following locations: U.S. 1 and Southwest 27th Avenue, Bird Road and Southwest 87th Avenue and, West 49th Street and 12th Avenue in Hialeah.

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