Posted on July 01, 2021 in: Guest Column
The term Separation of Powers brings me back to my middle school years when I was learning about the three branches of government: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. These three branches all have their own distinct separate powers and duties within our government to ensure there is no abuse of power by any branch. This same Separation of Powers holds true in our local government as well with our separate taxing authorities. 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.
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.
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 Sound Off section. These comments are understandable when it comes to the financial obligations of our property owners.
The Citrus County Property Appraiser’s Office appraises approximately 147,000 properties and 7,200 tangible accounts in our county, placing a fair and equitable market value on the property. Over time, due to the “Save our Homes” amendment and caps on increases allowed each year, a gap is built between the market value and the assessed value. Next, our office subtracts the approved property exemptions to reach the taxable value of 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. If you have a question about your property at any time, please contact our office and speak to a member of our staff.
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 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. Then taxing authorities will start holding public hearings and discussing millage rates. The Citrus County Clerk of Court’s Office begins holding Value Adjustment Board hearings. The Tax Collector’s Office starts preparing the tax bills.
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 then 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 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 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”, 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.