In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: D.C. Goutoufas
Office: Hillsborough County Property Appraiser
I have served with dedication and distinction for 20 years as a banker, where I worked with homeowners, small businesses, appraisers and underwriters on financing for business loans and mortgages which gave me extensive experience on all sides of real estate in appraising and assessing both commercial and residential properties to work out the most fair and equitable agreements to benefit both my clients and the financial institution.
Many of those years, I served as a downtown branch manager, thus I also have experience in both supervisory and administrative capacities to effectively hire, support and empower a capable staff.
In summary, I have the professional experience with both real estate values and the leadership experience to assemble a highly qualified and talented team to operate a cost-effective and efficient Property Appraiser's Office.
Why should voters vote for you?
It's all about Fairness.
The current property appraiser seems to play favorites in his treatment of taxpayers - and that's just not fair to the majority of Hillsborough county taxpayers who dutifully pay the property tax they owe each and every year, even as some people or corporations game the system to pay little or no taxes, and thereby passing-on their tax responsibilities to their unsuspecting neighbors. It's not fair and one of the first priorities I will address in office once I am elected property appraiser is to level the playing field, for everyone.
The property appraiser also has somehow allowed a Property Appraiser's Office employee and original campaign worker to pay only $458 per year in property taxes while his next door neighbors pay nearly $3,200 per year when all of the properties have similar lot sizes, similar home square footage, were built in either 1958 or 1959 and are all rated as being in average condition. How are either one of those situations fair? This will change when I become the Property Appraiser.
At the Port of Tampa and the Airport, the current property appraiser provides property tax exemptions to Big corporations based in other states such as Ports America, Southwest Airlines and Avis Rental Car, but he is suing a Homegrown local Tampa-based businesses such as Gulf Marine and Atlas Aviation when ALL are entitled to the exemptions under Florida State Law.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
Ensuring “Save Our Homes Act” True Value Homestead Exemption Value
When a homeowner sells his or her home in Hillsborough County, the “Real Sale Value” it actually purchased for by the buyer is much higher than the Market Value that the Property Appraiser lists for the home in the TRIM Notice taxpayers just received in August.
Thanks to the Save Our Homes Act,” by law, the homeowner carries over their Homestead Exemption value to the new house, but the current Property Appraiser has not updated the Market Values to “Real Sale Values,” thus after the home is sold, the homeowner loses out on thousands, and in some cases, many thousands of dollars on the tax break he should receive on the new home.
This is contrary to the intention of the “Save Our Homes Act” and to exacerbate this issue, the General Counsel for the Property Appraiser's Office teaches seminars to other property appraisers on ways to circumvent recognizing “Real Sale Value” in disputes with taxpayers.
I will stay current with “Real Sales Value” for homeowners as the Market Value. so that they are not deprived of this benefit when they sell their home, as the law intended.
Port of Tampa and Airport Authority Property Tax Exemptions for Tenants
In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed a law granting property tax exemptions to tenants at airports and ports in Florida provided they meet the criteria to receive it. However, the current Property Appraiser is countermanding that state law by trying to charge only SOME of these tenants property taxes, even though they are exempt by law, while not charging other Big corporate tenants when ALL of these businesses are entitled to the exemptions.
In fact, Hillsborough County is the ONLY county trying to do this, and when the Value Adjustment Board, which settles disputes between the Property Appraiser and taxpayers, ruled in favor of the tenant to keep the exemptions, his legal Counsel filed lawsuits against those tenants.
These companies create many thousands of jobs and generate billions in economic impact for the county. I will settle these lawsuits and work with those tenants to reach fair and equitable solutions for ALL parties involved.
Simplified Exemption Tax Freeze for Homestead Exempt
Florida Senior Citizens Current Florida law provides certain property tax exemptions for Senior Citizens, provided they have lived here for 24 years and their home Market Value falls under a certain threshold.
These exemptions should be available to all Florida Senior Citizens and their property taxes should be frozen for school taxation upon reaching the age of 65 or older and I will work with the Florida Legislature to pass legislation to accomplish this.
Texas has a similar law and their taxation sources are similar to Florida's. We can do this, too.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
● Fair Appraisals
● Fair Assessments
● I read your lips. Let's lower your taxes!
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
The areas of public policy I am personally passionate about can be found in this article.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on both individuals and businesses has been extensive and it will be critical for government entities to respond effectively to provide economic relief to help them through this situation which is of no fault of their own.
As Property Appraiser, I will work with both local and state governmental legislative and administrative bodies to provide relief for taxpayers through a property tax freeze or a rebate program to help them through these difficult times so that they can keep their properties.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
I strongly believe in equal access for all. It's in my heart. I have overcome a hearing disability. I lost my hearing overnight when I was 4 years old. My mother spent countless hours each day teaching me to read lips which helped me go mainstream through the Hillsborough County school system. I graduated from Plant High School where I played baseball and football, and I went on to make local news when I became the first deaf person to graduate from the University of Tampa with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.
WFLA Gayle Guyardo and Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto covered a thorough story when I decided to go through with a cochlear implant surgery. The journalists broadcasted me hearing my first words, my daughter telling him, “I love you”. The story was picked up by other news stations nationwide. The surgical technology gave me the ability to hear.
As a fourth generation Tampan, I have a keen interest and a deep commitment to the community. I have served on several government and non-profit boards. I served on the Hillsborough County Affordable Housing Steering Committee and the City of Tampa Neighborhood Element Board. I was the Vice President of Culbreath Heights Neighborhood Civic Association. Additionally, I was involved in lobbying the closed captioning program to bring equal access for government access television channels, making Hillsborough County the first to caption government access channels in America. The City of Tampa then emulated the move to caption their televised meetings. I also served on a task force that made Tampa International Airport more accessible for worldwide travelers through the Americans with Disabilities legislation.
I received several community service awards: the “Service to Mankind Award” from the Tampa Sertoma Club, the “Outstanding Community Service Award” from former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman’s Alliance for People with Disabilities, and the “You’ve Made a Difference Award” from the Board of Hillsborough County Commissioners.
What motivates you to run for public office?
I understand the problems at the property appraiser's office and am willing and able to tackle those issues that impact the local economy, and fairness to taxpayers, in ways that most people don't even realize, which prompted me to come off the sidelines and get involved, with the encouragement of many lifetime friends and associates in and around Hillsborough county that have inspired me to run for this often overlooked, but incredibly important public servant position. My late Father also worked for the property appraiser's office and my banking management background fits this role perfectly.