County Appraiser: ‘We Don’t Raise Property Taxes’
The Citrus County appraiser says he’s often unfairly criticized for raising property taxes, when it’s based on millage he doesn’t control. He only appraises home values.
INVERNESS, Fla. – As the Citrus County Property Appraiser, I continually hear comments directed towards our office as a whole – “I hope you don’t raise my taxes!” or “Why did you increase my property taxes?” I have even read some similar comments in the Chronicle’s famous “Sound Off” section.
These comments are understandable when it comes to the financial obligations of our property owners. It has been one of my primary goals over the last few years to help clarify a lot of misunderstandings related to our office and our obligations to the community. We play an important role in our community, and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what we do.
It is not the job of the Citrus County Property Appraiser’s Office to raise or lower taxes. That is the job and responsibility of the seven taxing authorities: commissioners, school board, city councils, and others. By law, the property appraiser’s office must appraise property at full market value. This is one of the most important aspects of our job. The amount of tax owed is then determined by the millage set by the taxing authorities.
In fact, our office is not a taxing authority. This fact alone is what separates us from each other. This is also an example of separation of powers.
How do we come up with those values you may ask yourself? Well, let me answer that for you. The duties as your elected Citrus County Property Appraiser, as well as my staff, is to determine the value of all property within the county. This includes improved and vacant real property (residential and commercial), tangible personal property, and agricultural property.
When I say the word “improved,” I am referring to structures that are added to a vacant piece of land. The word “improved” is a technical term used in the property appraisal process/industry.
To find the value of your property, we must first know which properties have recently sold and how much they are selling for in today’s market. That is why we maintain an accurate database of real estate information. Each transaction must be studied to make sure it was an arm’s-length transaction, meaning that a willing seller sold to a willing buyer without any undue pressure or special incentives (such as family relationships), and that the property was on the market for neither an excessive nor a short period of time. Once this is determined, we can base the value of a property from other sales of comparable properties. This is the sales comparison approach to valuation.
In August, our office mails our Truth in Millage (TRIM) Notices. If a property owner has a question or concern regarding their property assessment (value) after receiving their TRIM Notice, they can contact the Citrus County Property Appraiser’s Office in person or via phone to schedule an informal conference with our staff. The phone number to their respective appraiser is on the front of the notice so you can speak with them directly.
When property owners come into our office to discuss their TRIM notice or tax bill, we will typically ask them, “Are you here to discuss your assessed value or do you not like the property tax amount?” Usually, the response from the property owners is “… the property tax amount.” At this point, we will advise them to attend the budget hearings of their taxing authorities listed on the back of the TRIM notices.
All too often, property owners are not opening and/or reviewing their TRIM notice, and are waiting to dispute their values until after they receive their tax bill from the Citrus County Tax Collector’s office in November. At this point, it is too late to file a Value Adjustment Board petition with the Clerk’s office per Florida Statute.
It is also very important to know that taxable values reset to the full market value when property ownership changes hands. If you are a new homebuyer, you’re going to see the increase the most. If you purchased or moved into your new home after Jan. 1, 2023, you will not benefit by your own homestead exemption for that first year. If the previous owner had a homestead exemption, you will benefit from their exemptions, but as of Jan. 1, 2024, that will be removed and your value will reset to what the market is calling for at that time.
Keep in mind, if you have a mortgage and property taxes paid are in escrow, the mortgage company will be estimating your taxes in your monthly mortgage based on the previous owner’s tax bill from the prior year. This is not what your tax bill will be when your homestead exemption takes effect. There will most likely be a large increase in tax amount for your upcoming year mortgage.
© Copyright © 2023 Citrus County Chronicle, Landmark Community Newspapers LLC (LCNI). All rights reserved. Cregg E. Dalton is the Property Appraiser for Citrus County.