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By David Volz
In his first seven months out of the gate, Broward County’s new Property Appraiser Marty Kiar has been vocal about his determination to make some changes to the Property Appraiser Office, including new employees, a new computerized appraisal system and an increase in spending. In the first week of June, Kiar proposed a 52.4 percent budget increase for his office, the bulk of which would go toward a projected $8.5 million computer appraisal system, and 16 new employees. In an interview with Point! Publishing on July 10, Kiar confirmed that he has taken his request for the computer system off the table for the 2018 budget, but will re-visit the issue in 2019. Kiar’s go-getter attitude has drawn attention to the Property Appraiser’s office and the important function it serves in Broward County, especially as property values continue to rise.
Point! Publishing thought it an opportune time to get to know Kiar and the role of the Property Appraiser’s office in the County.
The 101 on the Property Appraiser’s Office
In a nutshell, Kiar’s office plays an important role in determining the amount citizens pay in annual property taxes and the level of funding available to the various municipal governments and service providers such as public schools and hospitals. This year, because of the increasing value of property, new construction and a stronger economy, there is a 9.3 percent increase in the value of taxable property throughout Broward County (including new development). This translates to an increase of about $82 million in property taxes collected by the Broward County Commission, if no changes are made to the millage rates. The amount that property owners pay in city property taxes will be determined by their local city governments when the city millage rates are set. The School Board will bring in about $108 million in additional revenue if they don’t adjust their millage rate.
The amount of a property owner’s tax bill depends on two factors: the first is the assessed value of their property, which is Kiar’s responsibility; the second is the tax rate, expressed as dollars per thousand, for each taxing body in which a property is located. For example, a property might be subject to taxes by Broward County, the school board, a city, a hospital district and multi-county districts, such as the South Florida Water Management District. The sum of each of these tax rates is multiplied by the assessed value and equals the amount of taxes the property owner is called to pay.
If one believes their assessment is too high, they can contact the property appraiser’s office. If one thinks their taxes are too high, they can contact the governing body of the jurisdiction in question. Each taxing body is required to hold two hearings before they set the tax rate. They encourage responsible comments from taxpayers when setting their budgets and tax rates.
In total, there are currently 211 people who work at the Property Appraiser’s office. Many appraisers work in the commercial and residential department. There is a team that goes after fraud, a customer service team and staff members who work with data, deeds and outreach. There’s also a legal department and an information technology department.
The Property Appraiser’s office had a budget of $20,690,650 in 2017, which is determined by the Florida Department of Revenue. Most of the money for the budget, about $18 million comes from the Broward County Commission.
Kiar said he believes the Office of the Property Appraiser has four important functions:
• It determines the value of all residential, commercial and tangible personal property.
• It determines the value of all railroad property in the county.
• It provides education to residents and business owners on how they can save money through programs such as the homestead exemption, low income senior exemption, widow’s exemption, disabled first responders exemption and many other exemptions.
• It investigates fraud situations, such as people who live out of the area but claim a homestead exemption in Broward County. The fraud division cracks down on people who are not playing by the rules and who are taking advantage of the system.
Property values can greatly fluctuate, especially during times of development. Property values in Broward County are currently on the rise. Taxable values for existing properties increased 7.9 percent in the county over the past year. In addition, $2.4 billion in new construction on the tax rolls has brought the overall increase to 9.3 percent.
“The taxable value of a property is based on what is happening the real estate market. We look at comparable sales in a community and determine the market value of a property. The Property Appraiser affects local government directly because it provides it money to municipalities so services can be provided to the people,” said Kiar. “Local governments base their millage rate on all the property values we set throughout the county.”
Even though tax collecting is not the most popular function of government, Kiar wants to establish positive relations between his office and the community.
“I am committed to outreach and I enjoy interacting with people and meeting people from many backgrounds. I show people tax exemptions they are eligible for,” said Kiar. “It is my goal to find every person in Broward County entitled to a tax saving exemption and give it to that property owner. Our outreach programs go throughout the county everyday providing education and signing people up for money saving exemptions.”
He has spent time with disabled first responders, lower income senior citizens and other people to educate them on ways they can save money on property taxes. Kiar recent visited the E. Pat Larkins Community Center in Pompano Beach to meet with a group of seniors. He brought staff members to the event. He gave a talk to them about exemptions available to them. At the end of the meeting, he signed up residents for tax saving exemptions they were entitled to receive but were not getting.
“I always find that going out in the community there are so many people that our office can help and it inspires me to keep going,” he said.
One of Kiar’s most important goals is to modernize the office. Since he took office in January he has brought in Alona DiPaolo to be his chief of staff.
“She is very hard working, very organized and runs a good office,” said Kiar. The office is working on updating its website and outreach program.
Kiar recently asked the Department of Revenue for an approximately $8.5 million Computer Mass Appraisal System which would help ensure the most accurate assessment of property values possible. He withdrew this request from this year’s budget, but said he will raise the issue again next year. As of July 10, Kiar said he wants an overall budgetary increase of nine percent for his office in fiscal year 2018. He wants to ensure that the outreach office program is expanded.
“The more we get out of the office the more people we can help,” he said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]