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Appeal a property tax bill? Under proposed law, you might still have to pay -- some

When real estate values plunged with the sinking economy, scores of owners appealed their property appraisals in an attempt to reduce their tax bills. That created a major backlog of appeals -- and a budget crunch for local governments.

A property owner with a claim under appeal does not have to pay taxes until the issue is resolved. Counties and school districts rely heavily on tax dollars to fund their yearly budgets.

Though the number of appeals has gone down as a continued drop in property values has resulted in a decrease in some taxes, the average wait time for a homeowner to get an appeal hearing in Miami-Dade is about two years.

Now Miami-Dade lawmakers in the state Legislature are pushing proposals to require property owners to pay some of their taxes -- 75 percent, to be exact -- while their claims are under appeal.

The move would help fill the coffers of local governments, say the bills' sponsors, Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, R-Miami.

If a local value adjustment board finds that the property owner owes more in taxes, the owner would have to pay the difference with 12 percent interest. Likewise, if the owner is owed a refund, the money would be paid back with 12 percent interest.

On Monday, the Senate version cleared its last committee stop, so the proposals (HB 281 and SB 880) head to the floor of both chambers.

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