Politics

Solution to Miami-Dade schools’ tax collection shortfall heads to Gov. Scott

Property owners line up at the office of the Miami-Dade County property tax appraiser to appeal tax increases in 2010.
Property owners line up at the office of the Miami-Dade County property tax appraiser to appeal tax increases in 2010. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A proposed law that cleared the Florida Legislature on Wednesday should give local government entities — such as Miami-Dade Public Schools — faster access to their tax revenue and the ability to more accurately plan their annual budgets.

Officials with the Miami-Dade school district have, for years, complained that lengthy delays in tax collection short-change public schools by millions of dollars in funding.

And they finally have a solution that’s a step away from becoming law.

HB 499 unanimously passed both the House and Senate on Wednesday and now awaits Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s signature.

The measure — led by Republicans Sen. Anitere Flores, of Miami, and Rep. Bryan Avila, of Hialeah — reforms statewide the process for resolving property tax disputes, which are heard by county Value Adjustment Boards.

It puts limits on when property owners’ appeals need to be resolved, and it requires the boards to complete all appeals and certify property values with the county appraiser no later than June 1.

We’re finally going to have legislative protection that will ensure equity in funding for Miami-Dade’s children.

Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools

Flores said the provisions “speed up and modernize that process, so hopefully entities such as our school system and our public school students will receive the money they deserve in a timely matter.”

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and other district officials traveled to Tallahassee at least twice this session to testify in favor of the bill when it was vetted by legislative committees.

“We’re finally going to have legislative protection that will ensure equity in funding for Miami-Dade’s children,” Carvalho said Wednesday in Miami.

Carvalho and school board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman both said they were “appreciative” of Avila, Flores and the rest of the Miami-Dade delegation for navigating the bill through the legislative process.

“This was a very big priority for the board,” Hantman said.

The district’s fight over property tax appeals has been years-long and contentious.

The district audited the local Value Adjustment Board and refused to pay a $1.5 million bill to the property appraiser and threatened to sue over the issue. United Teachers of Dade, the local union, did sue — but a judge dismissed the complaint.

Carvalho said the district will now pay close attention to how the bill is implemented in Miami-Dade.

“Everything is in place to solve the problem. With every law that’s passed in Tallahassee, it is about the execution. And fidelity as far as execution will be key,” Carvalho said.

Kristen M. Clark reported from the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau and Christina Veiga reported from Miami.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, @ByKristenMClark

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, cveiga@miamiherald.com, @cveiga

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