Truth in Property Taxation Can be Hard to Come By
Public Notice of Important Property Tax Changes should not be Diminished
Florida taxpayers have a critically important protection called the Truth in Millage Act (TRIM) that was enacted to formalize the property tax process and provide information and opportunities for input to taxpayers. The TRIM Notice informs each taxpayer of how their property tax bill would change from the present year under the proposed budget of each taxing authority and if the taxing authority made no budget changes.
Another important provision of this law requires that when setting property tax rates, local governments use as the starting point the tax rate that would bring in the same amount of tax revenues as the prior year with the increased or decreased total taxable value of current property. This millage rate—called the “rolled-back rate”—allows local governments some growth revenues by excluding new construction from the calculation.
Using the rolled-back rate as the base helps protect taxpayers when property values are rising rapidly. Conversely, during times of falling values, the rolled-back rate can be higher than the previous rate, allowing local governments to raise the millage rate without having to advertise it as a tax increase. The TRIM law directs that any proposed millage rate that exceeds the rolled-back rate should be characterized as a tax increase, even requiring that local governments place an advertisement in a local newspaper, with the heading “Notice of Proposed Tax Increase.” This notice details the size of the tax increase and provides the time and place of the public budget hearing to adopt the proposed budget and millage rate.
These two important taxpayer safeguards are under fire, as legislation has been filed again this session to allow for their posting on the web to be sufficient notice, rather than placing the notice in a local newspaper (Notice of Proposed Tax Increase and other legal notices) or delivering by first class mail (TRIM Notice).