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Date of Issue: June 29, 2006

CART head supports TDC tax position

Don Schroder  of the Citizens Against Runaway Taxation organization said he fully supports an initiative by the Tourism Development Council to draft legislation that would change the appraisal methods used by the state’s property appraisers.

"We want to be cohesive and work with them," said Schroder. "I think the TDC initiative is great and we’re both working toward the same goal of saving our mom-and-pop motels. I certainly hope we can be involved in their process."

At its June 19 meeting, the TDC voted to ask Manatee County legal staff to draft a proposal for presentation at its August session. TDC member Sandy Haas-Martens said the TDC wants to present the proposed legislation to state Rep. Bill Galvano and the entire Manatee legislative delegation when it meets in October.

"We need to get it to them before the legislature meets next January. I really believe they will be behind this," Haas-Martens said.

And the problem is not limited to Manatee County.

She said 40 of Florida’s 67 counties are experiencing the same taxation and property appraisal problems as Manatee County. It’s a problem that the state needs to address quickly, she indicated.

 CART is currently working with Manatee County commissioners to draft an ordinance that would allow the county to defer tax payments above a certain level in areas designated as "working waterways." Those areas would include Anna Maria Island.

At issue is the methodology used by Florida property appraisers in determining assessed value of properties.

Appraising property at the "highest and best use" usually means a mom-and-pop motel is compared to a similar condominium for value. While that means good news for tax coffers, it often spells doom for small motel owners on Anna Maria Island, who have seen their taxes increase an average of 84 percent the past three years.

The result of rising appraisals and accompanying higher taxes has been that more and more mom-and-pop motels are converting to condominiums because owners can no longer afford the taxes. CART was formed two years ago in an effort to stem the loss of small businesses on the Island.

The Florida Legislature plans to create a committee during its 2007 session to study all aspects of property appraisal and taxation in Florida.