FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/NSF) – An appeals court has backed Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish in what it described as a “tug of war” with the Broward County Commission about the property appraiser’s budget.
The case, decided by the 4th District Court of Appeal, focused on part of state law that leads to the Florida Department of Revenue approving property appraisers’ budgets. Counties have to pay for the offices’ operations, and disputes about the budgets can be appealed to the governor and the state Cabinet.
The lawsuit stemmed from a decision last year by the Broward County Commission to set aside less money for Parrish’s office than the Department of Revenue approved. The County Commission also decided to appeal to the governor and Cabinet, who handle such matters while serving as the state Administration Commission.
After Parrish received a quarterly draw of money from the county that was less than the Department of Revenue approved, she filed a lawsuit.
The County Commission contended that the lawsuit improperly circumvented the process of taking the dispute to the governor and Cabinet. But a circuit judge ruled that the county should pay the amount set by the Department of Revenue while the dispute was pending with the governor and Cabinet, and a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld that decision Wednesday.
Also, the appeals court noted that it appears the governor and Cabinet will not act on the dispute, as the 2013-14 fiscal year has now ended.
The appeals court said the Department of Revenue’s involvement in approving property appraisers’ budgets is related to curbing political pressure in the appraisal process.
“Since raising taxes is politically unpopular, county commissioners have a powerful incentive to pressure their property appraiser to arrive at higher property valuations,” the ruling said. “If a county’s real property valuation increases, it is market forces and the property appraiser, not the county commissioners, who shoulder the tax hike blame. For this reason, the property appraiser’s budget is established by an unelected, independent entity — the FDOR (Florida Department of Revenue) — instead of county commissioners. Free from political pressures, the FDOR may hone in on the adequacy of the property appraiser’s proposed budget, without the distraction of the next election.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
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