Posted on July 07, 2022 in: Guest Column
The term Separation of Powers is a very important governmental process. A quick internet search Britannica.com defines “separation of powers” as “division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions”. Britannica further explains the concept of separation of powers process, “such a separation that limits the possibility of arbitrary excesses by government, since the sanction of all three branches is required for the making, executing, and administering of laws.” It is my professional opinion that this term could be used to explain how we should treat our local, state, and federal government. As a student starting in elementary school all the way through my college years, I was taught how valuable the term “separation of powers” meant in our government.
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!” These comments are understandable when it comes to the financial obligations of our property owners. I’m sure you are probably asking yourself at this point - Why is the Citrus County Property Appraiser talking about Separation of Powers in today’s guest column? By the end of my column today, my goal is to give you the answer to that question.
The Citrus County Property Appraiser’s Office appraises approximately 154,886 parcels and 7,375 tangible accounts in our county, placing a fair and equitable market value on the property. We examine all applications for exemptions and classifications. We also review all the official records pertaining to property that is recorded at the Citrus County Clerk of Court’s Office for ownership changes throughout the year. All properties are maintained and updated on our cadastral records maps.
It is not the job of Citrus County Property Appraiser’s Office to raise or lower taxes. In fact, our office is not even a taxing authority. The taxing authorities in Citrus County are the Citrus County School Board, the Board of County Commissioners, the City of Crystal River, the City of Inverness, the Homosassa Special Water District, Mosquito Control, and Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The property appraiser’s office places assessed values on the properties located within these taxing authorities based upon the current market value. The importance of “Separation of Powers” when discussing taxing authorities in our county is vital. In Citrus County, as well as the 66 other counties around the state, the Property Appraiser’s office certifies the tax roll that is approved by the Florida Department of Revenue for the tax year. The taxing authorities will then start holding public hearings and discussing millage rates.
In June of every year, the taxing authorities listed above receive separate estimated taxable values from our office to allow them time to begin preparing their budgets. On July 1st of every year, the taxing authorities receive their certified taxable values from our office.
After July 1st, the taxing authorities will finalize their budget requests which they each separately create and justify the funding required to provide the necessary services for our community. Based on these budget requests, a millage rate is set for the dollar amount needed to obtain these budgets. The millage rate is multiplied by the taxable value in each taxing authority to determine the taxes due by each property owner.
In August, our office mails our Truth in Millage (TRIM) Notices. If a property owner, commercial or residential, has a question or concern regarding their property assessment 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 Citrus County Tax Collector’s Office mails the tax bills each November to all property owners. The Tax Collector’s Office collects all the tax payments, then their office disburses the money collected to all the taxing authorities.
Additionally, if a property owner does not agree with the assessment placed on their commercial or residential property by our office, they can petition to have a hearing through the Citrus County Clerk of Court. This request must be done before the 25th day following the mailing of the TRIM notice. The Clerk of Court will hold a hearing, known as a Value Adjustment Board or VAB, which will be controlled by a special magistrate. The special magistrate is a neutral party and will review the property and all the evidence provided – this is similar to any other hearings or trials in our county.
The Separation of Powers within our governmental agencies and taxing authorities is similar to the separate branches of the government within the United States. Each “power” has specific roles and functions that are clear and distinct. As a result, no single taxing authority or governmental agency can hold all the power or make all the decisions. We must all work together for the common good of our citizens. As always, my staff and I are committed to all of the property owners of Citrus County.