By: Matt Cadwell
Florida is unique in many ways from the rest of the nation and our tax system is one of the reasons many people choose to make this state their permanent home. Unlike many jurisdictions in America, voters here have the power to elect the individual responsible for valuing the real estate that is taxed by the local government. That position is the Property Appraiser and I am proud to have been elected to this office last November. I have the opportunity to follow 40-year incumbent Ken Wilkinson and it has been an honor to continue his commitment to excellence.
Whether it is maintaining one of the best property websites in America or continuing to run this office at a cost of less than 50% of other large counties, your office of the Lee County Property Appraiser is dedicated to the well-being of taxpayers.
The TRIM, or Truth In Millage, notice is sent out every August to every taxpayer in Lee County. It is our duty to notify taxpayers of the new valuation that our office developed for this tax year. Our valuation date is always January 1, so these values reflect what was occurring in the real estate market 8 months ago. Please take a moment to review these values and contact us if something seems out of the ordinary. The valuation is based on our record of the physical details associated with your property. If we do not have the correct information, then obviously our valuation will be off and we are required to correct any factual errors immediately (You can visit our website, www.leepa.org, to review your property record details).
If it is not a factual error, but you still think the valuation is too high, then please contact us to discuss your thoughts before time runs out in September. We are always working on our valuation process and feedback from the taxpayer is one of the most valuable sources of information. This is the time to modify the valuation with the simple discussion of details we might not have known. You can use our online chat feature at www.leepa.org, which is operated by our employees here in the office. You can also reach those same employees by calling (888) 721-0510. Or you can always come into our office in Downtown Fort Myers, at 2480 Thompson Street, on the 4th Floor. If for some reason we cannot ultimately agree on the valuation of the property, then you can avail yourself of the Valuation Adjustment Board (VAB) process. That is hosted by the Lee County Clerk of Courts (www.leeclerk.org) and you can visit their website to find out more.
Also, don’t forget that this TRIM notice provides taxpayers with a snapshot of your local government budget process. The proposed millage rate for each of your taxing authorities is listed, including the county, city, school board, fire district, etc. Local government budgets begin on October 1st, so this TRIM notice is a reminder that local boards are holding their public budget meetings during August and September. Now is your opportunity to voice your thoughts on the coming budget year and the decision you want your elected officials to make. Lastly, this TRIM notice does not include non-ad Valorem assessments, such as solid waste (garbage collection). Those will be on your actual tax bill sent by the Tax Collector in November, but you can visit their website, www.leetc.com, if you want to check on them now.
As always, our mantra is to be an “advocate for the taxpayer” and I want your interactions with our office to be as seamless and productive as possible. If we can ever assist you in any way, please contact us and we will be glad to help.