AUGUST 3, 2004

            The Value Adjustment Board (VAB) held an organizational meeting on Tuesday, August 3, 2004, at 8:35 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner’s Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Lake County Commissioners present at the meeting were: Debbie Stivender, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, and Catherine C. Hanson. Lake County School Board member present: Kyleen Fischer, as alternate. School Board members absent were: Jimmy Conner and Becky Elswick. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Frank Royce, Chief Deputy, Property Appraiser’s Office; and Judy Whaley, Deputy Clerk.


            Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, explained that this organizational meeting is required by Florida Statute and is for the purpose of giving an update on the VAB process. Essentially, Florida Statute now requires that all cases be heard by a special master before coming before the VAB. The VAB does not hear issues regarding facts and does not deal with appraisals, etc., but does get recommended orders from the two special masters that have been hired by Lake County. This year, applicants may file a written objection to the order if they disagree with the order. Unless the special master makes a legal mistake, the VAB is somewhat bound to follow the special masters’ factual decisions. For example, if the special master determines that a petitioner was not a legal resident, the VAB cannot reverse that determination because it is a factual decision.

            Mr. Minkoff stated that, as was the case last year, an interim assessment roll will probably need to be approved by the Board of County Commissioners if the Tax Collector requests that. The VAB will probably hold short meetings in November or December 2004 to ratify, or make changes to, all of the special masters’ decisions.

            In response to questions, Mr. Minkoff further explained that the VAB cannot change the facts the special master finds, although the legal side could be changed. Most of the cases, particularly the valuation cases, are very intensively factual. As far as procedure, the special masters’ written recommendations will be presented to the VAB in advance of the VAB meeting, along with any objections that may have been filed. Unless a VAB member wants to change the procedure, there will be one motion to accept all of the recommendations.

            Mr. Frank Royce, Chief Deputy, Property Appraiser’s Office, stated that the special master process is easier for the VAB but is quite a bit more difficult and time consuming for the Property Appraiser because of the amount of evidence and testimony. There is a certain length of time that the petitioner is allowed to submit evidence and the Property Appraiser has to correspond back to the petitioner within a certain period of time with the evidence the Property Appraiser intends to use.

            Mr. Minkoff remarked that this year’s exemption cases will be heard by Bruce Duncan, a special master who is an attorney, and the valuation cases will be heard by David Taylor, a special master who is an appraiser. The process last year was very low key. He commented that the fees paid to the two special masters last year were a lot less than what had been expected.

            Mr. Royce stated that the Property Appraiser’s Office has been able to handle the process without adding personnel. He explained that last year probably three-fourths of the petitions that were submitted were resolved before going to the special masters. Because of the evidence that is now required, it may be possible that both sides can more readily see and understand the facts of the case.

            Mr. Minkoff confirmed that last year’s special masters were hired on renewable contracts. Contracts have been renewed with Bruce Duncan and David Taylor at the same rates as last year. Unless directed otherwise by the VAB, Mr. Minkoff stated that filing fees will be charged again this year and will help offset some of the special masters’ fees. The filing fee is $15.00 per petition for one parcel with an additional $5.00 fee for each extra parcel. Per Florida Statute, there is no filing fee for homestead exemptions unless the exemption was filed late.

            It was the consensus of the VAB to charge the modest fees for filing petitions.


            Special Master Bruce Duncan will hear exemption cases on August 9, 2004, and the reschedule day is August 23, 2004. TRIM (Truth in Millage) notices will be mailed August 18, 2004, and Special Master David Taylor will hear valuation cases on October 11 and October 13, 2004, and the reschedule day is October 28, 2004. The hearings will begin each day at 9:00 a.m. and will be held in the Board of County Commissioner’s Meeting Room.

            Mr. Minkoff pointed out that the special masters’ hearings are open to the public. While welcome to attend, members of the VAB are not needed at the special masters’ hearings. The next meeting of the VAB will probably be in October 2004 and the final meeting could be as late as January 2005.


            There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Value Adjustment Board, the meeting was adjourned at 8:47 a.m.