I recently sat down to watch the budget meetings being held by the county commission, and I was simply stunned by what appeared to be the complete lack of education held by our elected officials. I honestly couldn’t tell if they just don’t know any better, or if they just don’t care.
Issue after issue was discussed. County departments of all kinds approached the commission asking for increases in their individual budgets, and some departments didn’t even ask for increases. But one thing was obvious. The County Commission needs to take a class in Florida law.
Since they seem to be completely oblivious, let me explain. The bulk of county revenue comes from tax dollars, more specifically, property tax dollars. An up-to-date efficient Property Appraiser’s Office results in more revenue for the county. It does so as follows: When a new home is built on vacant land, someone from the Property Appraiser’s Office must visit the property, determine the value based on sales, and add that to the tax roll. The same goes for when people add on rooms to their existing homes, add swimming pools, porches, patios, etc. If the office is understaffed, these new houses and additions can sit there for years before they added to the tax roll, resulting in lost revenue for the county. So basically, the most important county office to improve is the Property Appraiser’s Office. Without them, you have no money to fund anything else. It is that simple, but sadly, not to the geniuses on the County Commission.
When I saw Mr. Burke stand before the County Commission and get turned down when asking to increase his already short staff, my jaw hit the floor.
Florida state statute requires that every property in the county be physically inspected at least once within a 5-year period. That is state law. Mr. Burke even brought this up during his request. According to Florida state statute, once the Department of Revenue agrees that staff should be added to an office, it is then the responsibility of the County Commission to approve it.
There was a similar situation last year in a larger Florida county where the County Commission refused to disperse funds to the Property Appraiser’s Office. That Property Appraiser filed a lawsuit the County Commission. That lawsuit is not yet settled, but the result is expected to favor the Florida Department of Revenue and the Property Appraiser of that county. The County Commission is not more powerful than the DOR when it comes to the Property Appraiser’s Office, but apparently, no one bothered to tell them that.
I think that citizens should be aware that Mr. Burke appeared to be trying to make his office as efficient as possible to do the job required by state law, and the County Commission ignorantly denied his request, because apparently they have no clue as to where the county’s revenue comes from. The state statutes on the assessment of Florida properties are public record. As a citizen, I took the time to read them myself. Why haven’t the people we voted into office to represent us? Clearly they are not doing their jobs. Maybe it is time to vote them out.
Cape San Blas