Friday, September 13, 2013

Mall in downtown Miami was given a 94% property tax reduction

The County’s property assessment consists of two components--Land and Building value.  

The mall, in downtown Miami is taxed for a building value which is not an asset and its best use would be to demolish it and build a skyscraper at that site.

At a recent Value Adjustment Board before a Special Magistrate for the 2012 property tax assessment, a 94% reduction was granted for the building.  It was reduced from $1,762,500 to only a “token value” of $100,000

The argument presented by Barry Sharpe pointed out that the County was in effect “double-dipping” by charging taxes on land that is not buildable in its present state, plus charging additional taxes on an old building with a liability value. 

The County was assessing the mall, comparing its assessment with the values of other “supposedly” like parcels of land, that actually have the ability to build an 80 story skyscraper. 

In order to obtain the highest and best use at this, it should first be demolished.  Then, it would no longer be “handicapped” with an old building in the way.  Having such a building is actually a negative for a builder.  One has to then deal with demolition, environmental matters, evicting and relocating tenants, etc.  All this takes time and money. 

An investor or building contractor such as Sharpe, who handled the tax appeal, would not want to purchase with so many unknowns.  He would prefer purchasing a vacant lot, with the ability to build, from day one.

This is an example as to how one can have an income producing building in downtown Miami and on the other hand, not have to pay taxes on the building.   This is a win-win situation for the property owner.

Property tax appeal assistance:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Should you even bother appeal the 2013 property asessment?

Those that filed property assessment tax appeals in 2012, all they now have to show is the cost of their filing fee—with no results.  Yes, they are frustrated and many even start to believe that it is not even possible to obtain a refund.  Why should anyone think that 2013 will be any different?  Those that have never appealed before do not realize that they have a good chance for a refund, if an appeal is filed.

The delay is due to the Value assessment board being back up, We wish it was possible to expedite the cases but we have to sit and wait.

Furthermore, if there is an assessment reduction, the property tax cap set by law, may also trigger an automatic second refund check for them for the following year.

The Property Appraiser is now working out settlements on the 2013 property tax petitions through informal assessment reviews.  But somehow, the 2012 prior year’s appeal, still is awaiting a hearing date.
 This may have an unanticipated benefit for the County.  It may be an indirect way of cutting down on the amount of tax refunds to be issued by the County, in addition to the amount of appeals filed.

Even though the County is required to pay 12% interest on refunds as a result of tax petition, by delaying the appeal hearings, it has created a damper effect on people that would otherwise have wanted to file an appeal.

 It now appears that this is may be a big win for the County.  In this manner the County will not have to worry as much about people inquiring about their property assessments.

IMPORTANT:  Broward deadline to file is this Monday the September 16, 2013, and Miami-Dade is Tuesday September 17, 2013.  If you miss the deadline you forfeit the right to appeal.  DO NOT MISS IT.

For assistance with you property tax appeal:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Contaminated soil found in a local park

Miami city workers have trucked away contaminated dirt and paved the parking lot at a popular park for children and dogs in Coconut Grove after tests showed the soil contained lead, arsenic and other toxic substances.
The soil at Blanche Park, 3045 Shipping Ave. — tested as part of a wider study into contamination from an old Miami incinerator — exceeded levels allowed by the county, according to a Sept. 4 letter sent to the city by the county’s Department of Environmental Resources.

In a meeting hastily called by City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff at the park Monday night, between 75 and 100 neighbors, many with dogs, questioned Sarnoff as well as the county’s environmental chief, Wilbur Mayorga.

“Is it safe for our kids to play here while it’s being remediated?” asked Justin Leto, a lawyer whose two young children play at the park. “They should close the entire park pending further investigation.”

Elizabeth Ramirez led officials to a spot where just six months ago, she said, kids played with sand in a gap in the artificial turf that covers most of the park. Sometimes, she said, they ate it.
“Kids used to literally sit here and dig and it was their dinner,” she said.

Paving the parking lot acts as a cap and ensures it is safe, Mayorga explained. The artificial turf within the park provides the same type of seal.

“That should not be looked at as a small and incomplete step,” he said. “It’s just our initial” step.
Sarnoff, who lives across the street, asked the city to test the soil in August after a University of Miami graduate student discovered a two-year-old city study that uncovered soil contamination at a nearby firefighter training facility. The facility, which opened in 1983, had been built on land once occupied by the incinerator, named Old Smokey.

“I asked them to test places right away where we knew kids were. That was my primary concern,” he said. “Then I said where are the control studies? And they said they weren’t doing any. I’m not an expert, but it just seemed obvious.”
The tests were part of eight targeted borings done by the city after the county ordered it to test 15 other random sites in light of the contaminated soil found at the firefighters’ training site, the former home of the incinerator at 3425 Jefferson St. The city also targeted Peacock Park, where no contamination was found, as well as Esther Mae Armbrister Park and area schools, including F.S. Tucker and Carver elementary schools, Carver Middle and Coral Gables Senior High. Those samples are still being studied.
In addition, the county collected 40 samples from the neighborhood.

All the samples will be evaluated to give a fuller picture of what exists in the soil. Some have shown relatively minor levels of contaminants.

But samples taken at Blanche were so high that Mayorga ordered its parking lot roped off. Paving the lot will temporarily seal the soil so it can remain open until studies are complete, he explained.

Records indicate the site, which had been used to quarry limestone, was purchased by the city in 1943 to dump trash, said Assistant City Manager Alice Bravo. In 1962, it was turned into a park, she said.
In fact, the soil borings contain glass, indicating ash was dumped at the site, Mayorga said. That also means the contamination likely did not come from ash spewing from the incinerator.

The latest finding only complicates what has become a prolonged investigation burdened with delays.
The city shut down the incinerator in 1970 after the city of Coral Gables and two dozen residents successfully sued over the noxious smoke that billowed from the old stack, at times violating pollution controls. Before the city opened the fire training facility, no testing for contamination was done, according to a city study.

In 2011, however, the city tested the land where it wanted to expand the training center and found elevated levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, barium and lead.

The county’s DERM has been asking the city to come up with a plan for cleaning up that contamination for more than two years. In August, after residents in the West Grove complained when UM shared its findings with them, the county ordered the city to widen its testing to a one-mile radius.

On Friday, Bravo asked for yet another extension to the latest deadline, which was at 5 p.m. Monday.
Now with the findings at Blanche Park, the investigation will widen yet again. In addition to samples collected Friday, DERM plans to collect even more samples from the park, Mayorga said. And there will be a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Elizabeth Virrick Park, 3255 Plaza St., for residents to discuss the issue.

“We don’t even know the extent of the contamination,” he said. “We need to understand the vertical profile.”

Read more here:

For property tax appeal assistance:

Miami Shores tax rate to drop slightly

Miami Shores council members tentatively agreed to a slightly lower tax rate for 2014 after the first of two budget hearings Wednesday night.

The rate will be $8.6949 per $1,000 in taxable property value, including a 69.49-cent levy to cover debts for the village’s charter school and aquatics center. This year’s rate was $8.75.

Nevertheless, for the longtime owner of a home assessed at $200,000, the bill would be $1,333, or about $21 more than this year. That assumes the owner is entitled to the standard $50,000 homestead exemption and that the home’s assessed value increases by 1.7 percent, the maximum allowed by law.

These figures don’t include separate property taxes paid to the Miami-Dade School Board, the county and other agencies.

The Shores has one of the highest municipal tax rates in Miami-Dade County. This year, only Opa-locka and Biscayne Park had a higher total property tax rate.

The sanitation rates ($705.52 per year per single family residence) and stormwater rates ($45 per equivalent residential unit) also will remain the same.

The village says the budget is balanced with no cuts to services or layoffs. One of the main initiatives the council has taken for this upcoming fiscal year is to reassess and adjust the current pay plan for village employees because of “experienced difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified personnel.”

Vice Mayor Jesse Walters commented that salaries of the most “lowly paid” employees have remained stagnant for years and have been in need of a raise. The council budgeted $175,000 to the upcoming fiscal year to implement changes to the pay plan recommended by an outside firm, which includes a 3-percent increase or other adjustment based on the study, for all non-union village employees.

While the budget appears to be largely settled, one issue that will likely won’t be resolved before the budget is finalized and approved is the amount the village expects to pay towards employee pensions. In the past, the village has contributed between $125,000 to $150,000 a year to the pension fund. However, the current account manager for Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., the village’s actuary, says the village should be
contributing as much as $400,000 a year to their pension fund, which represents an increase of $250,000 over the last fiscal year.

Read more here:
For property tax appeal help: