February 14, 2007

Another slam against the “Save our homes exemption” and high Palm Beach County property taxes

Killing the Golden Goose

I was so pleased to read the Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, February 13, 2007. A front-page article by George Bennett titled “Property owners sound off” stated that taxpayers are demanding a complete revision of the tax system here. One person attending the meeting in Palm Beach County said that his taxes are “ like another mortgage…” As I’ve stated in the past, my own taxes on the condominium here have almost doubled this year, and will do the same again next year. Having just moved here I am unable to homestead until then. Property-owners that have homesteads dating back to the nineties are able to maintain relatively low taxes while new businesses, snowbirds, small business, small investors, renters, those with vacation homes, and families hoping to move here are hit with extremely high property taxes. Mine will approach $9,000.00 next year when I will finally be able to slow them to an annual 3% rise by homesteading my property. It has become so expensive to maintain a home here that people have begun to sell their properties and leave South Florida. Even the rich find themselves caught in the vise. For example, a vacation property valued at 15 million dollars will be taxed at about $270,000 dollars per year. Any intelligent person of wealth would find such unacceptable. After all, there are other tropical options. The Mayan Riviera is a short air flight away, and property is relatively reasonable compared to South Florida, though the Mexican government is also learning how to tax property owners at inappropriate levels. My financial advisor said, “It’s as though the state and county want to kill the golden goose.”

By way of explanation, the “Save our homes exemption” was voted in place in 1992, and permanent homeowners taxes were frozen at ninety-two levels, while all other categories were allowed to rise. However, since that time anyone who moves to a new home in order to upgrade their home within the state and/or Palm Beach County is immediately assessed at the most recent, highest levels caused by profligate state and county spending which has also caused taxes on many homesteaded properties to soar as well as the other categories mentioned above. Marinas in Palm Beach County are taxed at an especially high rate because the local assessor bases his assessment value on the highest potential level of use, which does not take into consideration that the county has a basic three-month season, January though March. The real problem here is county and state government officials, both appointees, and elected officials who have pork barreled the gold coast into insolvency. I will not go so far as to say that crooked officials are in on the take as well, but I have my suspicions.

An organ for over-sight of budgets gone wild, and prosecution of individuals who are using tax funds inappropriately must be developed. I have already described on two separate occasions (January 14, 2007 and December 14, 2006) one County program designed to entrap gay men that has instead entrapped many married bisexual and heterosexual men. I have no idea the cost of the program, but it claims to have entrapped 12,000 men, and I suspect the cost is in the millions of dollars per year.

The County Property Appraiser, Gary Nikolits is accused of assessing property values based on the highest potential value of the property, thus, for example, a commercial lot that now has three small businesses located on it is valued as if it had a 25 story luxury high rise condominium complex instead. A recent Palm Beach Post article demonstrated how the mayor of West Palm Beach accepts gifts from developers who will create these properties of highest potential. She has not been prosecuted. County spending has increased by 80% between 2001 and 2006, and I’m sure has continued to rise during 2007. Instead, escalation must not be allowed to continue. However, spending must also be scaled back to something approximating 2001 levels, and if officials like Mr. Nikolits and the mayor are unable to be part of that change, they must go!

Happy Valentines Day!

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