Question: What looks like junk mail but often represents one of the largest bills you have to pay each year?
Answer: The Truth in Millage -- or TRIM notice -- that the Monroe County Property Appraiser's Office mails to homeowners each year.
To summarize, property owners recognize this form as the piece of paper that tells them what their property taxes for the coming year will be. Yet, there's a lotta other stuff in there, too! For example, it has some Catch 22-style humor. Although the notice explains how much our property taxes will be, the only office name and phone number on the form is that of the Property Appraiser's Office. And what control does it have over taxes? None.
Homeowners, do not call the Appraiser's Office for a tax reduction. Its employees can't help, except to whine and cry and fuss and fume right along with taxees, because the Property Appraiser has to pay property taxes, too.
The sole purpose of the Property Appraiser's Office is to estimate the value of all the parcels of real estate in the county. It doesn't set the value. It does not control whether the values rise or fall. It only reports the estimated value.
Unfortunately, there is no number to dial for "Iam T. Budgetmaker." Those who want to comment or complain about the amount of their taxes have to attend those budget meetings that are listed on the bottom of the TRIM notice. I urge you to do so.
On the other hand, if you disagree with the assessed value of your property, giving the Property Appraiser's Office a ring is the correct thing to do. Like the fuse on a firecracker, the appeal process burns quickly, so don't hold on too long. Anyone wishing to petition his or her assessment must do so within 21 days of the TRIM notice. File that petition first because short of a proven personal calamity, there are no second chances.
Property owners are entitled to a sit-down meeting with a staff member of the Property Appraiser's Office. Most adjustments that favor the taxpayer are made at these one-on-one meetings. Homeowners seeking an assessment reduction should take documentation that favors that position to the meeting. As a property owner, you can be your own best cheerleader to promote your cause, however only the facts will be influential.
In short, homeowners should seek to prove that similar properties as of Jan. 1, 2011 support a lower value. Read that sentence again. It doesn't say current listings. It doesn't say your neighbor's assessment. It doesn't say sales that took place after Jan. 1, 2011. Nor does it say you are poor, or short on cash or had a hard life or feel personally persecuted or have 15 cats to feed. Here's another hint: the sharpest pencil in the box will hire an appraiser to help collect the necessary data.
Correcting matters of fact is relatively simple. If the Property Appraiser's Office says a homeowner has five bedrooms, three baths and 3,000 square feet and he or she only has 900 square feet, two bedrooms and a single bath, homeowners should invite a staffer to inspect the home. Be mindful, however, that once the Property Appraiser's Office is invited to the property, they must act on what they see which could be to your detriment.
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 ReginaECorcoran@cs.com. Corcoran writes her column exclusively for The Citizen. It appears every other Sunday.