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I asked Lopez-Cantera to write about why he should be the Property Appraiser. Here is his answer...
Dear fellow readers of Eye on Miami:
I seek your support in the upcoming August 14th election. Professionally, I am a licensed real estate agent who brings perspective on real world real estate issues through my work in the greater Miami-Dade market during the past 15 years. Also, since 2004, I have had the privilege to be elected and re-elected to serve in the Florida House of Representatives as a voice and advocate for the residents of Miami-Dade County. During this time, I championed key reforms to the property appraisal process in an effort to bring fairness to Florida’s property tax code, empower property owners and reduce property tax bills.
Miami-Dade County’s current Property Appraiser made a conscious decision when elected to maintain the status quo. Consequently, the office budget has ballooned by +10.7% since 2009/2010 while Property Appraisers throughout the rest of Florida have decreased their budgets by a combined -8.3%. Furthermore, the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) has continued to be burdened with a high volume of appeals that are granted value reductions at an alarmingly high rate of 50.5% since 2006. I believe this is in large part due to his decision not include foreclosures in the valuation of our homes, a fact reported on this very website and something I plan to reverse. In 2009 alone, the VAB reduced established values by $8 billion and property taxes by $160 million just for those who appealed. Additionally, homestead exemption fraud has grown out of control, something the current Property Appraiser repeatedly denied until receiving considerable criticism from outside groups. All the while, residents are left without direct access to services and information that they need and deserve in order to make informed decisions that directly impact their day-to-day lives.
Unfortunately, sometimes government forgets whom they are there to serve and this occurs too often in the current Property Appraisers office. Over the past several months of campaigning, I have heard various stories from residents complaining about their experiences with that office. I believe residents deserve the best service and treatment possible and I would make that a cornerstone of the culture in the office of the Property Appraiser. As such, if elected I will:
· Create a revolving front office assignment for all professional staff within the office. Presently, there are approximately 370 employees in the Property Appraiser’s Office. Each and every one, including myself, would spend at least one day a month at the front of the office rendering service to those that visit the office so that public perspective is not lost.
· Re-design the front of the office, doing away with the front counter approach that is presently used, in favor of a more open office environment. For instance, I would create several workstations similar to what you would see in a bank branch. Visitors will have the opportunity to sit at an individual desk and interact directly with a professional in the office in order to better address their concerns, questions and/ or requests.
· Interject use of new technology into the Property Appraiser’s Office. People may not have the time or ability to visit the office, however, they seek the element of human interaction that is sorely missed when calling the Property Appraiser’s Office, as all calls are automatically routed to the County’s 3-1-1 Answer Center. That is why I will seek to take advantage of live chat and video conferencing.
· Hold monthly town hall meetings throughout Miami-Dade County in order to listen to and/or address any comments, questions or concerns residents may have regarding the Property Appraiser’s Office. These meetings will also allow residents the ability to express their ideas as to what can be done to make the office better. Moreover, they will provide the office an opportunity to provide additional services to residents, such as the processing of homestead exemption applications.
These are just but a few of the reasons why I am running to become Miami-Dade County’s next Property Appraiser.