Doral wants Donald Trump to pay up.
Doral City Council members will discuss a proposed resolution Tuesday urging county appraisers to reassess Trump’s lavish golf resort — the Trump National Doral, located off Northwest 87th Avenue and 41st Street — after a council member complained that the property has been undervalued for years.
“In the past year, Mr. Trump has cost the people of Doral millions in unfair tax breaks, and I am introducing legislation to ensure Mr. Trump pays his fair share,” Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz, who is running for Doral mayor, said in a statement.
A majority of council members told the Miami Herald they are inclined to vote for the resolution, although other than Ruiz, they asked that their names not be used. One council member didn’t return a phone call.
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One council member, however, said he would vote against the resolution. “I don’t really see what the purpose of it is. It’s the property appraiser’s job, not ours, to assess properties,” Councilman Pete Cabrera said. “I don’t believe in creating a resolution for one specific property.”
In 2012, Trump purchased the posh resort and spa for $150 million while it was in bankruptcy, his financial disclosure forms show. Trump then vowed to give the 650-suite resort a $250 million makeover.
When the sale was completed, the 800-acre property was valued at $106.8 million by Miami-Dade County appraisers, before renovations took place. An attorney for Trump challenged the assessment, and the county reduced the appraised value by $19 million.
Challenges over the next few years resulted in more reductions, until the appraised value reached a low of $69 million, McClatchy News Service reported in an article that detailed how Trump has succeeded in receiving reductions in tax bills on several properties.
It was only last year that the appraisal rose to $98.3 million. This year, county appraisers have made a preliminary assessment of $111.7 million, but that appraisal has not been finalized for tax bills that go out around Nov. 1.
Now that the property has had a makeover that Trump pegged at more than $250 million, Doral is calling on county officials to adjust the resort’s value.
The resolution, even if it passes, is only symbolic; it carries no authority.
The county appraiser’s office is the entity that ultimately determines the value of a property. Robert Rodriguez, spokesman for the property appraiser’s office, said Doral’s request won’t make a difference because the county reassesses properties annually.
“Every year, every single property gets assessed. And just because a property has $250 million in renovations doesn’t mean the assessment will equal dollar per dollar,” Rodriguez said. “We have close to a million properties. We understand the city’s motivation … but we have to remain fair and equitable.”
He noted that properties are appraised based on their condition as of Jan. 1 each year.
“Because the renovations are still ongoing, it’s hard to say what the appraisal will be this year. It’s unfair to assess it without the work being completed.”
The resort’s spokesman, Ed Russo, told the Miami Herald he couldn’t comment “because it’s the first I’ve heard about it. I don’t know anything about it.”
Officials say it’s difficult to calculate just how much tax money Trump’s successful appeals of his resort’s valuations have cost the city and other local taxing agencies. If the property had been valued at $90 million each year from 2013 through 2015, for example, McClatchy News Service estimated that his property tax payments totaling $2.8 million for those years would have jumped by more than $760,000, divided among taxing entities including the city, county and school board. If the taxable value had been $125 million to $150 million, he would have paid millions more.
Last year, the resort’s tax bill was about $1.5 million.
Ruiz told the Herald that Trump “deserves no special considerations from the City of Doral or Miami-Dade County.”
“Mr. Trump has a history of taking advantage of residents and local businesses and I aim to put an end to that practice in Doral,” Ruiz said. “Doral businesses and residents pay their fair share, and Mr. Trump should be required to do the same.”
When asked why the resort was assessed at less than half of what Trump purchased it for, Rodriguez said that he could not comment on specific properties but that “we believe all of our assessments to be fair and equitable. There are many different factors that go into appraising properties. The assessment of this property is primarily based on the income approach, which takes into consideration revenue brought into the property and operating expenses.”
“A renovation of $250 million does not translate dollar-for-dollar into the assessment,” Rodriguez said. “Furthermore, state law dictates that the assessed value can only increase a maximum of 10 percent a year.”
Ruiz didn’t always oppose Trump. Last year, the councilwoman, along with three other council members, voted to bring Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Doral. The pageant came with the a $2.5 million price tag, which the city approved paying from its reserves. That decision infuriated many residents, who demanded that the council retract their decision, which didn’t happen, although the city raised some of the costs from outside sources.
Days after the pageant, Ruiz and others voted to give Trump the key to the city. Months later, Ruiz — who recently kicked off her mayoral campaign with an endorsement from the Miami-Dade Democratic Party — proposed a motion to denounce Trump for remarks he made at his presidential campaign kickoff that Mexican immigrants brought “crime, drugs and rape” to the United States.