By Matt Caldwell
While I am proud that most of my time serving in the Legislature was dominated by environmental restoration and protection of our natural resources, I was also excited to serve on the Ways and Means Committee for 6 of my 8 years. This committee deals with tax policy that generates the revenue for the State of Florida, as well as the tax laws that apply to local governments and this assignment worked well with my professional background in real estate appraisal. Having started as an apprentice while still in college, 2020 will mark 18 years since I joined the profession. My background is in not only residential appraisals, but also commercial appraisal and expert witness testimony served me well during those 8 years in Tallahassee. It is this combined experience, both professional and legislative, that I hope to now bring to the office of Lee County Property Appraiser.
Florida takes their tax policy very seriously. In order for a homeowner to receive their tax bill, first the Property Appraiser determines the annual value of the property, with an appeal process in place if the owner disagrees with the valuation. Then the local government, such as the County Commission, sets the tax rate for that year, following a series of public hearings to take input. Then a separately elected county Tax Collector sends the final bill to each property owner. Thus, the taxes that are ultimately levied by local government are not done so by fiat. Instead multiple independently elected officials must agree, all of which are directly answerable only to the very citizens who are being taxed. It is a clever system and I believe one of the reasons Florida enjoys a reputation for low taxes and accountable government.
Elected Property Appraisers in Florida use a slightly different system for valuing the numerous properties than your private practice appraiser. While most readers may be familiar with the typical residential appraisal, with individual nearby comparables and adjustments for the different features, the elected property appraiser uses the mass appraisal method. In layman’s terms, this method takes every sale that occurred in the prior year and, using a weighted formula, splices those sale prices to determine the value of individual features, such as a pool, a 2-car garage, or a bathroom. Then each property is valued based on the combination of their particular features. This is a very effective method, but not perfect, which is why property owners have the appeal process through the Value Adjustment Board, wherein a private practice real estate appraiser will typically present a traditional direct comparable appraisal.
The retiring Property Appraiser, Ken Wilkinson, has been a leader in this field during his 40 years in office. He helped pioneer many of the technological advances that makes the valuation and appeal process as seamless as it is today. In fact, his office has fewer employees today than in 1980, an impressive feat considering that the Lee County has roughly tripled in population during that time. In addition, he wrote and helped pass three Florida Constitutional Amendments: Save Our Homes, Portability, and Working Waterfronts. These have saved taxpayers millions over the years. My goal is to continue this legacy of statewide leadership and for the Lee County Property Appraiser’s office to continue setting the bar for the State of Florida. That’s why I am proud to having Ken’s outspoken endorsement to be his replacement. I am excited about this new opportunity to serve and I hope to have your support in the upcoming election.
Matt Caldwell was a member of the Florida House from 2010-2018 and the Republican nominee for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018. He is currently running for Lee County Property Appraiser.
Paid by Matt Caldwell, Rep., for Lee Co. Property Appraiser