MINUTES OF A REGULAR MEETING OF THE GILCHRIST COUNTY VALUE ADJUSTMENT BOARD HELD SEPTEMBER 22, 1997.
The Gilchrist County Value Adjustment Board, in and for Gilchrist County, Florida, convened in a regular meeting on September 22, 1997, at 9:00 a.m.., in the Commissioner's Meeting Room at the Courthouse in Trenton, Florida, with the following members present to-wit:
Other persons in attendance were: Joseph W. Gilliam, Clerk of Court, Sam Mutch, Value Adjustment Board attorney, Sherree Pitzarell, Deputy Clerk, D. Ray Harrison, Property Appraiser, Sheree Lancaster, attorney for the Property Appraiser, Damon Leggett, Deputy Property Appraiser, Eric Black, County Forester, Nicholas Bryant, Mickey Bryant, Geritt Vanthul, petitioners.
Chairman Sheffield called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m.
Mr. Wilkerson made a motion, seconded by Mr. Vickers to approve the minutes of the meeting held September 23, 1996. The motion passed unanimously.
The Clerk announced that Petition 97-03 has been withdrawn.
Chairman Sheffield announced that Petitions 97-01 and 97-02 are the same tract of land and can be heard together.
Mr. Mutch updated the Board about a recent legislative change. Today there will be no discussion regarding the appropriateness of the millage rate or the tax. Only the assessment and whether the assessments are based upon the appropriate means of appraisal done by the Property Appraiser may be discussed. In 1997, there are some new sections, the most important of which is the presumption of correctness. This statute says that in any administrative or judicial action, in which a taxpayer challenges an ad valorem tax assessment of value, the Property Appraiser's assessment shall be presumed to be correct. This presumption of correctness is lost if the tax payer shows by a preponderance of evidence that either the Property Appraiser has failed to consider clearly the criteria in section 193.011, Florida Statutes, or if the Property Appraiser's assessment is arbitrarily based on appraisal practices, which are different from the appraisal practices generally applied by the Property Appraiser for comparable property within the same class and within the same county. If the presumption of correctness is lost, the tax payer shall have the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that the Appraiser's assessment is in excess of just value. If the presumption of correctness is retained, the tax payer shall have the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the appraiser's assessment is in excess of just value. In no case shall the tax payer have the burden of proving that the Property Appraiser's assessment is not supported by any reasonable hypothesis of a legal assessment. If the Property Appraiser's assessment is determined to be erroneous, the Value Adjustment Board can establish the assessment, if there exists competent, substantial evidence in the record, which cumulatively meets the requirements of section 193.011. If the record lacks competent, substantial evidence, meeting the just value criteria of section 193.011, the matter shall be remanded to the Property Appraiser with appropriate directions from the Value Adjustment Board. The issue here is what is a preponderance of evidence and that means there's a greater weight of evidence. This Board is a juaisi-judicial board and must determine whether of not the person challenging the assessment has shown by a greater weight of evidence (51%) that the issue is incorrect. If it is incorrect, then there is a preponderance of evidence to establish the appropriate assessment. If you believe the assessment is correct, then the person has the greater weight of evidence to show that the Property Appraiser is incorrect. If there are any questions about the appraisal or how the appraisal was done, it would be an appropriate question to ask the Property Appraiser.
Petitions 97-01 & 97-02:
Mr. Bryant received a letter from Sheree Lancaster, attorney for the Property Appraiser to present certain evidence on Monday or Tuesday of last week and he faxed the pertinent information to her on Thursday. He did not have the entire package of information ready at that time. He was out of the office on Friday. He would like to present the entire package, which is a forestry stewardship plan. Ms. Lancaster stated that she has a return receipt showing his signature on 9-13-97. Ms. Lancaster objects to having anything submitted other than the 13 pages he previously faxed. Mr. Bryant stated that he objects to her objection because he indicated that the entire document was much longer than the 13 pages and she could have obtained the entire document from the county forester. Mr. Bryant added that the cover sheet he faxed to her indicated that there were other pages included in the forestry stewardship plan. Mr. Mutch stated that there is an evidentiary question before the Board: has the petitioner met the requirement of section 194.034 (1)(d) which states that no petitioner may present for consideration, nor may a Board or Special Master accept for consideration testimony or other evidentiary materials that were requested of the petitioner in writing by the Property Appraiser of which the petitioner had knowledge and denied to the Property Appraiser. The Board reviewed the letter sent to Mr. Bryant by Ms. Lancaster. Mr. Harrison stated that Mr. Bryant never requested a conference with him. Mr. Bryant contends that the evidence is a public document available to anyone. Mr. Durden made a motion to accept the objection from Ms. Lancaster. The motion was seconded by Mr. Watson. Mr. Bryant filed a petition with the Value Adjustment Board last year, and Mr. Vickers referred to the minutes of last year's meeting where the forestry stewardship plan was discussed. Mr. Bryant said he applied for an agricultural exemption but did not hear anything from the Property Appraiser. Mr. Vickers feels that people get tied up in government too much and would hate to see a citizen denied the opportunity to defend himself or present his case. Vote of the Board to sustain the objection of the Property Appraiser to accept evidence not previously presented to him was as follows:
Mr. Bryant stated he would like to go on record as stating that he may hire an attorney and appeal the Board's decision.
Mr. Mutch stated that the information he faxed to Ms. Lancaster may be filed with the Board, but the additional information regarding the forestry stewardship plan can not be filed and retained by this Board. Appraiser's Exhibit #1 is the letter from Sheree Lancaster, sent to Mickey Bryant, along with the return receipt; Appraiser's Exhibit #2 is the letter from Sheree Lancaster, sent to Nicholas Bryant, along with the return receipt. Petitioner's Exhibit # 1 is the 13 pages of evidence Mr. Bryant faxed to Ms. Lancaster. Mr. Harrison stated that he does not have a problem with the Bryants being in the stewardship plan. He appraised the property as of 1-1-97 and they indicate on their petitions that their estimated market value is higher than the Property Appraiser's estimate. They noted that they filed for agricultural exemption, however, there is no application on file in his office for agricultural exemption. Ms. Lancaster stated that the petition indicates that Mr. Bryant is appealing the Property Appraiser's denial of the agricultural exemption, when in fact, the Property Appraiser has never received an application for agricultural exemption. Mr. Bryant reviewed his evidence with the Board. According to Mr. Bryant, he mailed his ag exemption application to the Property Appraiser's office on 2-14-97. March 1st was the last day to apply for the exemption. Mr. Mutch stated that the Board again has an evidentiary problem, which is whether or not the Bryants, by preponderance of the evidence, have proven that the application for agricultural classification has been submitted. The Board needs to take testimony as to whether or not that information has been received and then make a ruling. At this time, the court reporter swore in Mr. Harrison for testimony. Ms. Lancaster asked him if he received an agricultural exemption application for either of the Bryants or anyone in their family for the year 1997. Mr. Harrison replied that he did not. Ms. Lancaster asked when Mr. Harrison first saw the application that Mr. Bryant alleges that he filed. Mr. Harrison replied that it was September 19th. Ms. Lancaster asked Mr. Harrison how he received the copy. Mr. Harrison replied that it was presented to him from Ms. Lancaster. Ms. Lancaster asked if Mr. Harrison received a copy of the 13 pages from the Forestry Stewardship Plan, as Mr. Bryant indicated on a post it note on the fax cover sheet that he faxed copies to both Ms. Lancaster and Mr. Harrison. Mr. Harrison replied that he did not. Ms. Lancaster asked Mr. Harrison what the procedure is when he receives an application for ag exemption. Mr. Harrison replied that once an application is received, he gives the application to one of his field persons and asks them to physically look at the property and determine if it qualifies for the ag application. Once this is done the field person meets with the Property Appraiser and they review the notes and information and determine whether or not the property qualifies and signs the application at the appropriate place and mails a copy back to the applicant. Ms. Lancaster entered a copy of an application for ag exemption from another tax payer as an example of what a completed application looks like. Mr. Mutch stated that this item is the Property Appraiser's Exhibit # 3. Mr. Lancaster asked Mr. Harrison if the application that Mr. Bryant filed out was different from the one submitted as Exhibit # 3. Mr. Harrison replied that they are different, but both are acceptable. Ms. Lancaster asked Mr. Harrison if he had been asked to mail Mr. Bryant an application from the Property Appraiser's office, which application would have been mailed. Mr. Harrison replied that it would have been the same as the one presented as Exhibit # 3. Ms. Lancaster asked if Mr. Bryant obtained his application from some other property appraiser's office in Florida. Mr. Harrison stated it could have come from the Department of Revenue. Mr. Bryant asked Mr. Harrison if he had received the application, would it have qualified for ag exemption. Mr. Harrison stated that his staff would have reviewed the property, and sometimes they solicit information from the Division of Forestry to make that determination. Mr. Bryant requests the Board to accept the application now and be granted an agricultural exemption. Mr. Harrison pointed out that on the petition itself, the petitioners did not check the box for an appeal for a late filing of an application. Mr. Vickers stated that he feels the Property Appraiser would have acted on the application in a manner suitable to the petitioner, had the application been filed and filed in a timely manner. Mr. Vickers therefore made a motion to deny the petition because the petitioners have not met the presumption that the Property Appraiser's assessment is incorrect and the petition for appeal of the late filing application for agricultural classification for extenuating circumstances, pursuant 193.461 (3)(a), Florida Statutes was done untimely. The motion was seconded by Mr. Durden. Vote of the Board to deny the petition was unanimous.
Mr. Durden made a motion to accept Mr. Zucker, the petitioner's, request to have Petition 97-03 withdrawn. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wilkerson. Vote of the Board was unanimous.
Petition 97-04 was submitted by Alltel Florida, Inc. There was no one present to represent Alltel Florida, Inc. According to Mr. Harrison, they are seeking a decrease in the Property Appraiser's assessment amount of approximately $250,000. Mr. Harrison consulted with a representative from the Department of Revenue. It seems that the basic disagreement with Alltel is the amount of depreciation of properties. Utility companies take their state-wide value and allocate a portion to each county. Mr. Watson made a motion to deny the petition based on the presumption that the Property Appraiser's assessment is correct. The motion was seconded by Mr. Durden. Vote of the Board was unanimous.
Petition 97-05 was filed by Gerrit Vanthul. Mr. Vanthul feels his property assessment is to high. He would like his pole barn assessed at the same rate that he and Mr. Harrison agreed upon in 1989. He feels his mobile home was depreciated more than anticipated. He is also concerned about property next to him that was sold for less than the value of his property and feels his property should be appraised for a similar amount. The assessed value is $38,033 for 1997. Mr. Vanthul questions the validity of the new depreciation schedule. By this schedule, the value of the home was increased $2500, but that was more than the 3% that the state allows you to collect, so the appraiser rolled back the assessed value, so that next year, he will have to go back to the 100% in order to get caught up. The $38,033 is at 95% and he does not have a problem with that. The problem is the mobile home is being depreciated inaccurately. In regards to the pole barn, he is being assessed at a rate of $2.00 per square foot. His pole barn is over 20 years old and in poor condition. According to Mr. Harrison, his field person revisited the property and the appraised value was reduced by $3500. Mr. Harrison stated that the depreciation schedule he uses comes from the computer software company he uses and the same depreciation schedule is used on every mobile home in the county. Mr. Harrison explained the appraisal procedures which are governed by the Department of Revenue. Mr. Harrison stated that his office does not have the staff to visit physically each parcel in the county every three years. It is probably done every 5-6 years, but hopefully, with the addition of a new field person, that will improve. Mr. Harrison testified that he appraises similar properties using the same method. Mr. Wilkerson made a motion to deny the petition, based on the evidence heard. The motion was seconded by Mr. Durden. Vote of the Board to deny Petition 97-05 was unanimous.
Mr. Wilkerson made a motion to direct Mr. Mutch to prepare the written responses to the petitioners, authorizing the chairman to review and sign such responses. The motion passed unanimously.
No changes were made to the tax roll as a result of this hearing.
There being no further business to come before the Board, Mr. Durden made a motion to adjourn at 11:55 a.m. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wilkerson, and unanimously approved.
JOSEPH W. GILLIAM, CLERK CHAIRMAN