State audit blasts property tax appeal process

Broward County accused of ousting magistrates who gave largest assessment reductions
June 19, 2014 09:45AM

Stacy Ritter

South Florida property owners are not getting a fair shake when they appeal their assessments to county Value Adjustment Boards, a state audit shows.

The boards, which are independent from counties, can be “compromised” when local officials intervene with their decision-making, according to Florida Auditor General David W. Martin. In Broward County, the board allegedly used “tracking reports” on special magistrates to determine which ones were pushing for large property assessment reductions. Six magistrates were removed from the board for giving the highest reductions.

“Rigged is the very word that a lot of people are using,” Tallahassee attorney Benjamin K. Phipps told the Miami Herald. “They rig it by making sure that the taxpayers don’t get a fair shot, though not in Miami-Dade because they have the only system in the state that’s really fair.”

Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter chairs the county’s Value Adjustment Board and defended it in a response letter to the audit. Ritter wrote that Broward no longer targets magistrates and the board operates with complete transparency.

Statewide, property taxes cover about half of the funding for public education and 30 percent of municipal government revenues. [Miami Herald]Eric Kalis