Letters

Miami could very well be that place; all the resources are there. But I have to say it A there is that laziness that may end up obliterating any chance of improvement. I don't think there will ever be a live-music scene in Miami of any consistency until more locals take action. Clubs like Tobacco Road, Cameo Theatre, and Churchill's should be respected and patronized by all locals who want this scene to continue.

I tried to keep it going by exposing local music via radio at UM and FIU and by booking bands at both schools. But it all became too much for me to handle by myself. The problem is apathy. There's a small minority of people who keep plugging away, but the effort becomes a burden. Before you know it, the straw breaks the dromedary's back.

I will always be available to help it prosper, but I can no longer be in an "executive" position. So, Mr. Floyd, if you care for this cause, tell Churchill's Dave Daniels and Y&T Music's Rich Ulloa to keep up the good work, but ask for assistance. There is something in Miami that can't be found anywhere else. Those who are aware of that will all come back eventually. I have never left Miami, but Los Angeles I have left several times.

Lauran Gangl
Los Angeles

Imperfect System, Perfect Solution
Elise Ackerman's story about property tax appeals ("Land of Opportunity," December 28) leaves out fundamental points. For example:

Two people own land. Their parcels face each other across a road. Both properties are the same size, have the same land use and zoning, and are in the same submarket. Both receive identical tax bills. But on just one side of the road, local government has adopted regulations saying 25 percent of the land must be reserved for drainage. The owner of this land loses one-quarter of his development rights after he paid to buy land that was unrestricted at the time of his purchase.

Is the value of this regulated property identical to the unregulated land across the road? What would a buyer pay for land with a 25 percent limitation on its development rights compared to land without this limitation? If a buyer would not pay the same amount because of the limitation, should the property taxes be the same?

Public appraisers cannot see this limitation when they study aerial photographs. And the information is not on the documentary stamps added up when deeds are recorded. Published comparable or market-sales data do not identify the specific and unique conditions that apply to individual properties. Because this level of detail is not readily known, mass appraisal techniques (used by the Dade County Property Appraisal Department to estimate value for tax purposes) often do not apply tax reductions permitted under state law.

The system may not be perfect, but what really counts is whether property owners are protected so an imperfect system is made a little better. As Americans we are guaranteed the right to be taxed with representation. Out of sheer necessity, the general way property taxes are determined limits our right to fairness. Checks and balances, fundamental to our system of government, are re-established through the property-tax appeal process.

Value adjustment boards (VABs) use experts to hear reasons why property owners believe they are overtaxed. Dade's VAB staffers deserve praise for their professionalism. They work hard to make their system easy for owners to understand A in effect, they are a good example of how every government department should operate. It isn't required, but the advantage of first using VAB procedures is a savings of time and money for owners. Having a VAB gives everyone representation when they are taxed -- without the costs of litigation. Both sides have the right to appeal, in court, should they disagree with the special master's decision. While it is true that some appeals do result in seemingly large reductions, one also must consider the total amount of each tax bill. Some owners pay millions of dollars in taxes. Every small percentage of overcharge can mean they might lose, unfairly, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The real questions are these: Should anyone have to overpay taxes or any other bill? Is it fair to overcharge someone? Shouldn't everyone have the right to see how their bills are calculated so they can check them for accuracy and point out any errors?

Owners who do not appeal virtually write blank checks to the government. Comparables change, property conditions change, and taxes change. Smart owners pay attention to these variables and make sure they are aware of every bill. This country was founded, after all, to stop government from forcing us to pay taxes without representation. We should be grateful for the protections we have, and we should use them diligently to make sure we never lose our constitutional rights.

Sheila M. Anderson
Miami

Erratum
Owing to a layout error, the article "Judgment Day" in the March 14 issue did not include an author's byline. The story was prepared by staff writer Kirk Semple.

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