140,000 tax appeals in Dade spur search for more staff to handle cases
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
After Miami-Dade property tax appeals hit a record high last year, 2009 appeals are projected to rise another 40%, reaching 140,000.
With far more appeal hearings expected following the real estate meltdown, the county clerk is hunting for more staff and places to hear cases.
The Value Adjustment Board is still counting piles of appeals that flooded its office at the Sept. 18 deadline. So far they total almost 80,000.
But with stacks of appeals waiting to be recorded, the office projects this year's total to far surpass the 102,000 in 2008, thousands of which still await action. The board hopes to finish those hearings by year's end. Taxpayers who appeal must pay in full, with hearings determining if they get refunds.
The 33 magistrates currently review appeals in eight rooms, each hearing 50 to 60 cases a day, the board says.
Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin said Tuesday he's hunting for more sites to hear the appeals expected. The valuation board plans hearings in North and South Dade.
"We are looking for space there to utilize for these hearings," he says. He's even working with the county's General Services Administration to temporarily lease vacant downtown offices for the job.
A total of 41 magistrates are to review 2009 tax appeals starting in December, when the board hopes to finish 2008 hearings.
But to handle the added volume, the board needs to beef up personnel, Mr. Ruvin says, hard to do with Miami-Dade facing a still-unresolved budget crunch.
The county denied a request to add workers, he says, as it struggles to balance payroll.
But he's not giving up. To begin hearing cases before year's end, he says he needs more staff and hearing rooms.
"I have to argue loud and long to get these additional personnel."