Joe Henderson: D.C. Goutoufas’ focus is on opportunities, not obstacles

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Beating Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez is a formidable task.

Davelis “D.C.” Goutoufas has a compelling personal story and has spent his life focusing on opportunities instead of obstacles. He spent decades in banking and is well-liked and respected in the Hillsborough County business community.

But in seeking to unseat Bob Henriquez as Hillsborough’s Property Appraiser,  Goutoufas lacks one key thing.

He has no experience in appraising real estate.

So, why is he running for that office?

Go back to the focus on opportunities instead of obstacles.

“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. That prompted me to come off the sidelines and get involved,” he said.

“The encouragement of many lifetime friends and associates in and around Hillsborough County 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.”

That compelling personal story?

He is a fourth-generation Tampan. His great grandfather was the first Greek to settle in Tampa in 1887. His ancestors from his mother’s side have a family blood lineage to William Bradford, a signer of the Mayflower Compact and the Governor of the Plymouth colonies.

Goutoufas lost his hearing when he was 4 years old after a fluid buildup in both ears. His mother taught him to lip-read by reading to him every night. Eventually, he attended Plant High School, where he played football and baseball. He graduated from the University of Tampa.

He is believed to be the first fully deaf student to graduate from UT. Goutoufas went on to a career in banking.

Five years ago, surgeons placed cochlear implants in each ear.

It restored some of the lost hearing – not perfect, but at least he could hear his daughter say she loves him.

“I am someone who has overcome many obstacles and barriers in life. There are no communication issues with this,” he said. “How do you think our President communicates with the French Prime Minister? The answer is interpreters, the same with my situation.”

He got into this race after first declaring to run for the Hillsborough Clerk of Courts. His campaign slogan: I read your lips. Let’s lower your taxes.

Clever.

Still, Goutoufas has a steep hill to beat Henriquez. He also has deep Tampa roots, name recognition, and support. In his two terms in office, Henriquez has largely stayed out of the headlines – always a good thing in that job – and has modernized operations.

Goutoufas faces a formidable task.

I asked him in an email to name innovations he would introduce if elected.

These are his responses (edited for clarity):

Ensuring “Save Our Homes Act” True Value Homestead Exemption Value 

When a homeowner sells their home in Hillsborough County, the “Real Sale Value” the buyer paid is much higher than the Market Value that the Property Appraiser shows in the TRIM Notice taxpayers received in August.

Thanks to the “Save Our Homes Act,” the homeowner carries over their Homestead Exemption value to the new house. The current Property Appraiser did not update Market Values to “Real Sale Values.” Homeowners lose thousands of dollars on the tax break they should receive on the new home.

This is contrary to the intention of the “Save Our Homes Act.”

I will stay current with “Real Sales Value” for homeowners as the market value.

Port of Tampa and Airport Authority Property Tax Exemptions for Tenants 

In 1997, the Florida Legislature gave property tax exemptions to tenants at airports and ports in Florida provided they meet the criteria. The current Property Appraiser is countermanding that law by charging only some of these tenants property taxes. He is not charging other big corporate tenants.

Hillsborough is the only county trying to do this. When the Value Adjustment Board 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 Exemption 

Florida gives senior citizens tax breaks if they have lived here for 24 years and their home’s market value falls under a certain threshold.

These exemptions should be available to all Florida seniors. Upon reaching 65, their property taxes should be frozen for school taxation. I will work with the Legislature to accomplish this.

Texas has a similar law and their taxation sources are similar to Florida’s.

We can do this, too.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


2 comments

  • James Henry

    September 29, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Interesting take from Mr Goutoufas when he says he “understands” the problems at the office yet he does not indicate what those problems are? As an appraiser that has appraised property all over the state, Hillsborough County has one of the best office’s in the state as far as customer service and transparency. In addition, the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s office has one of the best and most user friendly websites in the state.

    What I find most interesting is that Mr. Goutoufas has no experience in appraising real estate. In fact, he originally was running for Clerk of the Court? Then all of a sudden, he decided to run for property appraiser? Seems like a strange jump. And to say, as a banker he has the knowledge to properly appraise properties. I would be quite concerned relying on a banker to fairly and equitably assess my property for tax purposes. A banker does not use or understand the concept of mass appraisal which is quite different than appraising an individual property.

    He states he will lower our taxes, yet he does not state how he plans to do that. I am quite curious as I read his response where he speaks about “real sale value”.  All county assessor’s are required to value a property as of Jan 1 each year, so if a house was to sell in the middle of the year, they by statute can not raise the value of that property until the following January. So does this individual intend to do something unconstitutional? In addition, he states that values should be higher based on the sales price of a home, so if he were to raise the value, he would in turn raise peoples taxes since your taxes are directly related to the value of one’s home.    

  • Warren Weathers

    September 29, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    As a retired Chief Deputy of the Hillsborough County Property Appraisers office, under two elected appraisers, I read the article with interest.

    The innovations Mr. Goutoufas mentions in his response are not innovations.
    My response to his three “innovations”

    1. The concept that he really muddies up is the idea of “Real Sale Value”…no such concept exists in mass appraisal. He mixes up ideas. If he were to try to implement something like this, he would violate both state statues and the Florida Constitution. Even worse..if it could be done, it would unfairly raise taxes on homeowners.

    2. The Port of Tampa and Airport Authority properties that he mentions are properties leased to private, for profit companies. It has been affirmed over and over by the Florida Supreme Court, that these types of properties are fully taxable. To do otherwise, creates illegal inequities and make all other taxpayers make up the difference. His history of this issue is not correct.

    3. His “Simplified Exemption Tax Freeze for Homestead Exemption,” again clearly shows a lack of understanding of how the Florida Constitution and the exemption works. The current system works toward fairness and equity with all property owners in Florida.

    Anybody seeking this office, should have at least a basic understanding of the office and the real world complexities. Mr. Henriquez has consistently show a firm grasp of the issues facing the office and the citizens of Hillsborough County. He has used this knowledge to run the office as one of the premier appraisal offices the U.S., as evidenced by the awards he has received from the International Association of Assessing Officers.

Comments are closed.


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