Face to Face: A Conversation with Lori Parrish
Broward County's tax appraiser discusses Topic A -- property taxes.

Q. Property values have skyrocketed, and taxes have as well. Yet we hear local governments say that taxes have been reduced. Have they been reduced?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it's smoke and mirrors. If a government says to you that they are going to cut taxes by 9 percent and they still get $120 million more money, who are they kidding?

Q. Is it because no one's minding the store?

A. What happens, what we found happened -- and I [saw] this as a School Board member and a county commissioner -- what happens is the property appraiser mails trim notices [assessments of property values] in August. We start about the middle of August and we mail 100,000 a day for 7 days. So everybody gets them between the 14th and the 30th of August. People think it's some kind of solicitation or junk mail. They open it up. They pay no attention to it. They toss it out. They don't consider it's real.

The governments all, I mean, who can attend a budget meeting at 5:01 p.m.? That's when the county always did theirs. I changed them, made them at night at Stranahan High School, and the only people that came were, like, the Sheriff's Department because they wanted more money for Corrections.

Average citizens don't come. They don't make them user-friendly. Then we started rotating, when I was a county commissioner, the chair, we had them at Western High School, or Piper High School … But citizens still didn't come.

So what happens is everybody not only ignores not only the county and the School Board, but 31 municipalities, the South Florida Water Management District … they ignore all these things. And then [on] the first of November, the county mails everybody their tax bills and we have to go to the [Emergency Operations Center] to answer phone calls.

We don't levy taxes …

Q. So what do you do to make a difference?

A. In order to overcome that, this year we're starting to mail the trim notices with a letter I put in. It says this is a legal document. Look at your assessment last year and look at it this year. Look at your exemptions last year and look at them this year. If you see something is wrong, call us. If we can't satisfy your concerns, then file a petition to protect yourself. Look at what the county and cities are taxing you, and go to the hearing …

The trim notice [this year] is a new one. I did it totally different, with a letter trying to urge you to go to budget hearings and to call me if there is a mistake …

Q. But say I check the exemptions and they are all correct. I'm still getting affected by the values going up?

A. Yeah, but what it says, those trim notices say, if you disagree, here's the time and place of School Board [budget meeting]. No one goes to those hearings.

Q. But if the document is correct …

A. Yeah, but the thing is, what if you disagree with the amount of money being levied for taxes? You're supposed to go to the hearing.

Q. You're supposed to fight city hall …