Keys Homes
Sunday, October 6, 2013
This is not a bill

By REGINA CORCORAN Citizen Columnist

Whew! For a second there, it made me nervous. But, if it's not a bill, must be OK, right? Not exactly.

Key West property owners got a special treat in the mail this year. Or to be precise, two. We must be double special.

In addition to the DO NOT PAY THIS IS NOT A BILL notice of proposed taxes we get every year from the county, we also received a new NOTICE TO PROPERTY OWNER from the City of Key West.

For some, it could be a convenience. For others, a mere annoyance. Some of us will need a whole barrel of Advil.

Starting with the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, the city is changing the method it uses to collect solid waste fees and stormwater fees. It is adding these fees to your tax bill.

This is good for the revenue department of the City of Key West. It doesn't have to send out monthly bills anymore. It doesn't have to handle the monthly accounting functions for the receipts: logging who's naughty and who's nice, deposits, bank accounts, reconciliations, paper, ink, etc.

It doesn't have to be a collection agent anymore, either. The county will collect the money with the tax bill that you receive in November 2014.

Your wallet will agree it's fair, because the fee is approximately the same as you pay now for solid waste and stormwater, around $35 per month.

So, as the city writes in its notice, it is fair, efficient and effective.

Still, there will be some tricks and traps to be aware of.

Property owners who have mortgages that escrow taxes and insurance, beware. When November 2014 rolls around, watch for a double whammy.

First, there will be a shortfall in your escrow account of approximately $415. Naturally, your lenders will increase your escrowed fees. However, as a permanent cure for this problem, they will collect DOUBLE, plus a little to spare. That takes care of the shortage for the 12-month tax year 2014. Remember: There is yet October, November and December 2013 to collect.

Look for an increase in escrows of about $1,000 for the year, or $85 per month. Remember this. No sobbing and whining about "Why did my payment go up $85 when the bill was only $35 per month?"

Landlords, are you ever the special ones! Your tenants agreed to pay all utilities, right? Consider yourself the city's assistant collection agent. No, you don't get a badge.

When you were growing up, you always wanted to be a teacher, right? Now is your chance. You can educate your renters. Explain about the new collection procedure of the city and that for the renters, it means they must add about $35 to rent payments starting Oct. 1.

No, wait. Don't say add $35 to rent payments. That sounds like an increase. Express it this way: "Include your solid waste and stormwater fees of $35 with your rent payments, please."

No, wait. That sounds like it's included in the rent. That would be a rent decrease. Just say: "I need 35 bucks for solid waste and stormwater, and don't send it to the city anymore, please."

P.S. If you've been deducting taxes and interest on Schedule A of your tax returns, watch out! I'm not sure if Uncle Sam will agree that solid waste and stormwater charges constitute taxes. I've got it! Check with your professional tax preparer, tax attorney or C.P.A. for advice.

What do you think?

Regina E. Corcoran, SRA, is a Florida real estate broker, state-certified residential appraiser and residential contractor. She is president of AmeriRealty Corp. and vice president of AmeriMortgage Corp. She can be reached at Corcoran writes her column exclusively for The Citizen. It appears every other Sunday.

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