Mayor Mary Lou Berger – Commissioner, District 5
A Day in the Life of the Mayor’s Office
Mayor Mary Lou Berger – Commissioner, District 5
A Day in the Life of the Mayor’s Office
I am asked all the time – What is a typical day in the Mayor’s office like? The only way I can answer that is to say that there is no typical day. Each day is vastly different from one day to the next.
The one constant in my typical day is my staff who are knowledgeable and loyal to a fault. Let me introduce them:
Vivian has been with me the longest, nearly 20 years. She knows as much as I do. Vivian is my cheerleader, critic and confidant. Reviewing meeting agendas, monitoring land use/zoning issues, keeping track of all my Board appointments and attending meetings is more than enough to keep her busy. She also is my liaison to COBWRA.
Meaghan came to our office nine years ago. Her knowledge and cheerful personality make her the perfect outreach coordinator. She is my liaison to The Alliance of Delray and attends monthly gatherings at Kings Point and Century Village. Meaghan is the organizer of our office in addition to being my PR staffer. If I had any grandchildren, she would definitely be my favorite.
Janet is the newest member of my staff who came to us from the County’s Water Utilities Department where she took complaint calls from customers. I figured if she could handle that job, she would be great as my secretary taking all incoming phone calls. She proved me right because she can remain steady as a rock no matter how irritated a caller is. Janet is also my scheduler, a job that I consider the toughest in the office. Janet is the glue that keeps us going.
All of the staff handle constituent issues which range from "You didn’t pick up my garbage" to "We need a traffic signal" to "I have a question/problem. Can you help me?"
As for me, I spend my days attending meetings, talking to constituents, consulting with county staff and chairing a myriad of commission meetings. I feel very fortunate that you have given me the opportunity to serve as your county commissioner. My motto has become, "Government is your enemy until you need a friend." While I know that I cannot please everyone or solve everyone’s problems, I have learned to study and analyze issues and try to combine that knowledge with the art of compromise when dealing with constituents, staff and my fellow commissioners – no matter what kind of day it is.
As always, I invite your comments on any issue of interest to you. As your Commissioner I am here to help you. You may write me at 301 N. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 33401 or at MBerger@pbcgov.org. You can call me or my staff at 276-1310 or toll free at 877-930-2205. Please visit me on the Web at www.pbcgov.com/d5.
As always, I invite your comments on any issue of interest to you. As your Commissioner, I am here to help you. You may write me at 301 N. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 33401 or call my staff at 276-1310 or toll free at 877-930-2205. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to receive the Aaronson Alert via email please contact me to be added to our email listRic Bradshaw, PBC Sheriff
Drug abuse is a serious problem in our community. Many of us know a family member, friend or neighbor who has struggled with addition. Some of us have even known people who have died of drug overdoses.
At the Sheriff's Office, we are helping Palm Beach County's most troubled drug addicts kick their habits - hopefully forever. Our Another Way program offers intensive drug education to inmates who are held in our county detention system. It's a highly structured substance abuse and prevention program intended to help inmates begin the process of rebuilding their lives after years of living with drugs.
Unfortunately, many drug abusers will do anything to secure their next high, including committing crime against their neighbors, friends and loved ones. Many have no conscious, and they don't remember doing anything wrong. Unless they get help, addicts will continue to steal, hurt and endanger the people around them and revolve in and out of our criminal justice system at taxpayers' expense.
That's why my staff started Another Way in 2011. It helps addicts who are ready to end their crime sprees, face their addictions, and agree to live without using drugs. The program isn't for everyone. Only inmates who show a willingness to want to change are accepted. As a requirement for getting into the program, inmates must admit to having a substance abuse addiction. They have to volunteer for the program. They also have to sign an agreement to commit to changing their lives.
We have needed a program like this for a while. At our detention centers, we often see the same people booked in and out for the same types of crime, a pattern that continues for years. Many of these inmates are drug addicts. Through our Another Way program, my staff has found a way to finally help them.
Another Way is based in our West Detention Center near Belle Glade. It's a 60-day program consisting of a rigorous evidence-based curriculum. There are morning and afternoon classes, as well as lectures, discussions and other meetings throughout the day focusing on building the foundations of recovery. These inmates live with the program's virtues day and night.
We have top local recovery experts who work with the inmates to change their thinking and behavior. More than 350 inmates have been through the program so far.
Many of the inmates who have completed Another Way have told my staff: "This is the first thing in my life that I have completed." When they walked out of our jail system, they had the tools to end their drug abuse. They were set to become productive citizens and not be burdens to our community again.
Gary Nikolits, CFA, PBC Property Appraiser
2011 ANNUAL REPORT
This 2011 Annual Report is designed to provide you with insight and data about the job performed by your Property Appraiser’s Office.
As Palm Beach County continues to grow, the job of Property Appraiser is always challenging and ever-changing. Keeping track of the owners, values and exemptions on 627, 790 properties valued at $166.9 billion, requires the efforts of a highly skilled staff of dedicated public employees who strive to reach the highest standards in public service. Implementing new laws adopted by the Legislature, or passed by voters, ensures one constant: Nothing is constant!
I am proud that since my first election in 1992, my office has achieved 18 consecutive tax roll approvals without defect. This is significant because it shows the policies and procedures within my office often exceed those required by the Florida Department of Revenue, the agency that oversees the operations of all Property Appraisers in the state.
Although often mistaken for the office that sets taxes, my office’s primary function is to report to the various taxing authorities the taxable value of property within their jurisdictions. It is these elected and sometimes appointed commissioners and council members who set the tax rates and decide how much each of us will pay in taxes.
It has been my honor to serve as your Property Appraiser and I pledge to continue to do my best to provide you, our customer, the highest quality of public service.
We are proud that 72% of our full-time employees have earned the professional Certified Florida Evaluator (CFE) designation, awarded by the Florida Department of Revenue. In addition, many staff members hold other professional designations, making the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office the most professionally staffed appraiser’s office in the state and in the United States.
Accomplishments for the tax year 2010
The Tax Roll was approved by the Florida Department of Revenue without defect for the 18th consecutive year, a mark of professional excellence maintained by our staff.
Opened a new South County locaton to combine valuation and exemption functions for more public service efficiency.
Restored $492,313 to the Tax Roll from Homestead fraud investigations.
Established scanning technology, which saves on copying,filing and archiving property documents.
Processed 15,718 new exemption applications, 5,105 E-Files and 1,587 new senior exemption applications.
Value appeals totaled just 1.5 % of all parcels and accounts, the lowest among the state's three most populous counties: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. These low numbers reflect the exacting professional standards that guide our deputy appraisers in performing their duties.
We Value Our Community
The Property Appraiser’s Office is committed to serving our community and we proudly display appreciation plaques presented to us for our community service. Our employees give their time and money to important local events and every year we participate in four major health-care walks. In April 2010, we raised $7,063 for the March of Dimes. In September 2010, we raised $2,025 for the Sickle Cell Foundation. In October 2010, we raised $3,376 for the American Heart Association and $4,096 for the American Cancer Society.
2011-2012 Key Dates for Property Owners
January 1 Property values and exemptions are established.
March 1 Deadline to apply for Homestead exemptions, Portability and Agriculture classifications.
April 1 Deadline to file completed Tangible Personal Property Tax Returns.
June 1 Estimated taxable property values for 2011 released to local taxing districts.
July 1 Denial notices for exemptions and Agriculture classifications are mailed.
July 1 Preliminary Tax Roll submitted to Florida Department of Revenue.
August 1 Deadline to file appeals of denied homestead exemptions and Agricultural classifications to the Value Adjustment Board.
August 23 On behalf of Palm Beach County taxing authorities, Notices of Proposed Property Taxes are mailed to property owners. The information includes tax rates, market, assessed and taxable values for the current and previous year, exemptions applied to your property, taxes as proposed by the various taxing authorities and public hearing dates for their budgets.
September 16 Deadline to appeal market values to the Value Adjustment Board. Deadline to appeal to the Value Adjustment Board for late
applications for homestead exemptions and Agricultural classifications. November 1 The Tax Collector’s Office mails annual tax bills.
Prepare the 2011 Tax Roll without defect for the 19th consecutive year.
Continue to expedite the homestead application filing and review process through the use of new technology and online research tools.
Provide the public with increased real-time access to data through improvements to PAPA, our Award-winning website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Personal Property taxed in Florida?
Household goods are not taxed. In business, tangible personal property is assessed annually at fair market value. Tangible personal property includes furniture, fixtures, machinery, equipment, appliances, tools, signs, supplies and leased equipment. The first $25,000 in value is exempt from taxation. An initial Tangible Personal Property Return must be filed to claim this exemption. In 2010, there were 58,242 tangible personal property accounts in Palm Beach County, with a total value of $9.4 billion.
How is farmland assessed?
Palm Beach County is Florida’s largest agricultural producer. Deputy appraisers estimate production, income, expense and acreage of agricultural property. The classified value of the land is based on income earned from the commercial sale of produce grown or livestock raised on the land. Net earnings are calculated from data supplied by the Florida and U.S. Departments of Agriculture, and the Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences, as well as information provided by our local farming industry. There were 460, 140 acres devoted to farmland in 2010. Sugar cane was the largest crop, covering 390,663 acres in 2010. Row crops, such as corn, peppers and tomatoes, accounted for 32,732 acres. Pastureland for dairy and livestock use accounted for 19,244 acres. Citrus crops accounted for 1,929 acres. The remaining acres were plant nurseries, sod and other miscellaneous agricultural uses.
How do you keep track of properties?
Our Geographical Information System assists appraisers with detailed property ownership maps. In 2010, the staff processed 59,150 deeds. You can view an aerial photo of any parcel of land in the county on our website: pbcgov.com/PAPA. When you have selected the property record you wish to view, simply click “View Map.”
Additional information or copies of more specialized mapping data can be ordered at any of our Service Centers.
How do I qualify for Homestead Exemption?
A residential property may be eligible for Florida’s standard $25,000 Homestead Exemption tax benefit under certain circumstances, including:
You must be a permanent Florida resident and you must own and live in the residenc on
January 1 of the qualifying year.
You may apply at any time throughout the year, but the deadline to apply for all new exemptions is March 1 of the qualifying year.
You may file online for Homestead Exemption by visiting our website pbcgov.com/PAPA. You may also apply in person at any of our five convenient Service Centers.
An additional $25,000 Homestead Exemption benefit relates only to properties with an assessed value greater than $50,000. The additional exemption applies to all tax levies except school districts.
For the convenience of taxpayers, Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits has elected to automatically renew existing Homestead exemptions on January 1 each year.
What is the 3% Cap?
By Florida’s Constitution, the 3% cap, also known as Save Our Homes, limits the annual increase in the assessed value of a qualified Homestead property to the lesser of 3% or the percentage change in the prior year’s National Consumer Price Index (CPI). The 2010 cap was 2.7%. The cap for 2011 is 1.5% . If the assessed value of a homesteaded property in any given year is less than its market value, Florida law requires the Property Appraiser to increase the assessed value by the percentage change in the prior year’s CPI, even when the property’s market value decreases.
What is Portability?
Portability relates to Florida’s Save Our Homes 3% cap on a homesteaded property’s assessed value. With the Portability benefit, you can transfer up to $500,000 of your actual assessment cap savings to your new property. Keep in mind Portability applies only to homesteaded property. Of the 347,770 residential properties that qualified for homestead exemption in 2010, only 131,838 had an SOH benefit. For complete information on Portability, visit our website, pbcgov.com/PAPA.
How is property appraised?
Each property in Palm Beach County is inspected by a deputy appraiser at least once every five years. Between inspections, a property’s value is adjusted annually to reflect recent sales activity in the neighborhood. By Florida law, only sales transactions that occurred during the previous year can be used to establish values as of January 1 of the current year.
There are three approaches used to appraise property:
1) The cost approach estimates the cost to reproduce the building in its current condition.
2) The sales comparison approach compares sales of similar properties and adjusts for any differences.
3) The income approach capitalizes a commercial property’s income stream to estimate its value.
Each of these three approaches is considered when property is valued.
What are the duties of the Property Appraiser?
Florida’s Constitution mandates that all property must be assessed at its market value as of January 1 of each year. Market value is typically what a property would sell for in an open and competitive market.
The Property Appraiser has a legal duty to annually produce a “fair and equitable” tax roll and administer various property tax savings programs, the most common of which is Florida's Homestead Exemption.
The Property Appraiser also is charged with the responsibility of maintaining updated ownership records, including maps, for every property in Palm Beach County.
As always I invite your comments on any issues of interst to you. As you Property Appraiser I am here to help you. You may contact my office at (561) 355 4021.
Anne Gannon, PBC Tax Collector
click on link below for the Tax Collector's latest newsletter:
Now that March is behind us, we are closing the books on the 2012 Property Tax Season. If you haven’t paid your 2012 taxes, pay now to avoid a tax certificate being sold on your property. The tax certificate sale will be held June 1.
After April 1, all unpaid taxes include a 3-percent interest charge and advertising fees. Delinquent taxes cannot be paid online, but you may pay in person at most of our service centers. For more information, visit www.taxcollectorpbc.com.
LAST CHANCE TO BREAK UP YOUR 2013 PROPERTY TAXES
Did you have difficulty paying your 2012 property taxes in one lump sum? Consider enrolling in the Installment Payment Plan and paying your 2013 taxes quarterly. The plan breaks up property taxes into four payments due in June, September, December and March. The plan also includes a discount of slightly less than 4 percent.
To enroll, complete a short application and return it by April 30. Applications are available at any service center or at www.taxcollectorpbc.com. Renewal is automatic with the payment of the June installment. There’s no need to re-apply.
APRIL IS DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS MONTH
Anyone meeting the legal requirements is issued a driver license. Unfortunately, a valid license does not make someone a safe driver. Distracted driving creates serious hazards. Of all driving distractions, texting is proven to be the most dangerous, increasing crash risks by 23 times.
Why do I care about texting while driving? Florida law enforcement only recently began to track texting while driving as a cause of crashes. However, other statistical sources show texting as the cause for 43 percent of fatal wrecks in Florida. A recent Pew Research Center survey reveals one in four adults admit to texting and driving, the same percentage as teenagers.
Remember, a text message is never so important that it’s worth killing yourself or another innocent person. Please pull over before texting, and remind your loved ones to do the same. Our lives could depend on it.
TAX COLLECTOR’S OFFICE HONORED FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION EFFORTS
Keeping you informed about changes to driver licenses and taxes is one of my top priorities. That’s why we work closely with hundreds of local businesses and organizations to provide you with important information about our services. I’m very proud to announce that my office recently received an ADDY®award from the Greater Ft. Lauderdale American Advertising Federationfor our REAL ID public education campaign. We were also the recipient of the prestigious Bernays Judges’ Award by the Gold Coast Public Relations Council. The honor acknowledges outstanding marketing and communications programs.
LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER FOR THE 2013 FLORIDA BRAIN CANCER 5K
I am honored to be selected as Honorary Race Chair of the 2013 Florida Brain Cancer 5K and hope you will join me on April 7 at John Prince Park in Lake Worth. The event is hosted by Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure and attracts thousands to raise funds to support cutting-edge brain cancer research projects. As some of you may know, this disease is close to my heart. In 2004, I lost my husband Jim to a brain tumor and have fought ever since to find a cure.
I invite you to show your support by registering for Team Tax PBC online at www.fbc5k.org.
I hope you’re enjoying Florida’s spring weather. Don’t forget to stop by your local green market and pick up fresh, locally grown produce before they close for the season.
Sharon R. Bock, Esq., Clerk and Comptroller
Scammers Target Elderly with False Claims of Money Owed to Them
Palm Beach County residents need to be on alert for two potential scams that appear to be targeting senior citizens.
At least two callers to the Clerk & Comptroller’s office said they were contacted by someone named Jose Suarez, who directed them to send him $250 through Western Union. Suarez told them that they were entitled to probate case money that he would get for them, if they paid him the $250.
When the victims called the Clerk’s office with case numbers Suarez had given them, it was discovered that the case numbers were invalid.
In a separate incident, an out-of-state woman trying to sell her timeshare property was contacted by someone claiming to be a Palm Beach County courthouse employee. She was told to send $649 through Western Union to Jose Suarez, in exchange for $27,343 from an alleged timeshare victim’s fund.
Thankfully, in these cases, the victims called the Clerk’s office rather than sending the money. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, you should contact your local law enforcement agency.
It’s important to remember: No one who works for the Clerk’s office will call you and ask you to wire money to them. Please be wary of anyone who calls and says you’re owed money, then demands payment up front to help you get that money. Chances are it’s a fraud.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call my office at 561-355-2996 or e-mail me at email@example.com. You also can get more information about services provided by the Clerk’s office at www.mypalmbeachclerk.com.
The 2011 hurricane season has officially begun. As your Commissioner I have always worked diligently with county staff to provide information vital to helping my constituents prepare. I would like to remind you that the County’s Hurricane Survival Guide can be found on the Division of Emergency Management’s webpage at www.pbcdem.org. Here you can view, download and print this in-depth Guide or visit a Publix near you where they have similar guides published by WPTV News Channel 5.
According to Assistant County Administrator Vince Bonvento, the webpage has a myriad of resources in addition to the Guide such as:
ist of Palm Beach County gas stations with generators or that are generator-readyHome Depot, Lowe’s and Publix stores that are generator poweredLinks to other information preparedness resources
Residents living in a Hurricane Evacuation Zone or a mobile/manufactured home who require special transportation assistance due to a disability can pre-register with the special transportation assistance program (STAP). All registered persons will be called when an evacuation order is issued. A Palm Tran bus or Palm Tran Connection vehicle will transport them to the nearest American Red Cross hurricane evacuation shelter. To pre-register, call Palm Tran at (561) 649-9838.
Persons with special health or medical conditions that require professional observation, assessment, and maintenance should register with the Special Needs Program. To register for the program, visit Emergency Management’s website, download, print and complete the application, and mail it in now before a storm develops. If you cannot access this information online yourself, please contact Emergency Management at (561) 712-6400 or my office to request one.
For those planning to ride a storm out at home: stock up on food and water, make sure you have enough of your prescription medicines on hand, get flashlights and batteries in lieu of candles as they can be hazardous, charge your cell phone or have a corded telephone on hand since cordless phones will not function and cell service may get knocked out, stay in your home during the storm and remain there. If you must travel after, remember – ROAD SAFETY IS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE.
While I am confident in the County’s Emergency Management Division and all that they do to keep our residents aware and safe, I would be remiss not to remind you that the onus is on you to have a plan and to prepare. Despite all of the good intentions of government, it takes time to get help to you – at least 24 to 48 hours. That is why I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting ready for the upcoming season.
As always, I invite your comments on any issue of interest to you. As your Commissioner, I am here to help you. You may write me at 301 N. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 33401 or call my staff at 276-1310 or toll free at 877-930-2205. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.