Push poll wrongly claims Bob Henriquez is overvaluing properties, suggests Tom Lee plans to challenge him

Bob Henriquez
'The blatant inaccuracies and deceptive nature of these claims and the lack of ethics by those who commissioned this poll are exactly what is wrong with politics today.'

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez plans to investigate the origins of a poll sent earlier this week accusing Henriquez of overvaluing properties in the county and “causing a large increase in property taxes for the average resident.” 

There is no evidence to suggest Henriquez or his office has overvalued property, and the question relating to that claim ignores regulations that protect property owners from such over-valuations. 

Additionally, according to Florida State Statute 195.096 (3), the Florida Department of Revenue annually audits each property appraiser’s valuations to ensure they are not over- or under-valuing properties. 

The poll may have been referring to a case involving the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, claims that 15 of its properties were wrongly denied tax exemptions. An appeals court ruled in favor of the Aviation Authority, but Henriquez is appealing the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The case did not involve a valuation dispute; rather, the Property Appraiser’s Office did not provide an exemption that would reduce tax liability. 

The poll question at issue reads like a push poll, or informed poll, in that it offers an initial statement to the poll-taker.

“Hillsborough County Property Appraiser and former lobbyist Bob Henriquez has overvalued properties causing a large increase in property taxes for the average resident,” the statement reads.

There are three types of valuations for real property — just value, assessed value and taxable value. Just value is the actual valuation of a property, or how much it is reasonably worth in a fair market. The assessed value is the just value minus any assessment limitations, and the taxable value is the assessed value minus exemptions.

Florida’s Save Our Homes cap limits annual increases to a property’s just value to 3% per year for an owner’s primary residence (homestead). The state’s Homestead Exemption provides a $50,000 reduction to the property’s assessed value. 

That means that homestead properties cannot be overvalued by more than 3%. According to Zillow, the average Florida home value has increased by 3.4% over the past year, more than the Save Our Homes cap allows. 

Henriquez told Florida Politics the claim in the poll was “demonstrably false.”

“The blatant inaccuracies and deceptive nature of these claims and the lack of ethics by those who commissioned this poll are exactly what is wrong with politics today and I fully intend to investigate and expose those responsible,” he told Florida Politics.

“Furthermore, some of the allegations reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the county property appraiser and property tax law. They also ignore the publicly available data that demonstrates the successful outcomes achieved by the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s office under my leadership.”

The poll also revealed an interesting hint at a future challenge to Henriquez, a Democrat. In the same statement about overvaluations, the poll mentioned former state Sen. Tom Lee, a Republican, and included his voting record on taxes. Given that information, it then asked whether the respondent would vote for Henriquez or Lee.

Florida Politics has not obtained the poll results, but such questions often serve as tests of messaging and candidate viability, suggesting Lee is considering challenging Henriquez, or that someone wants him to. 

Florida Politics reached out to Lee for comment but has not yet received a response.

Henriquez is so far unopposed for reelection, but qualifying for the race does not begin until June 10, and runs until noon on June 14, meaning there is still time for Lee to jump into the race. Henriquez has already raised $86,000, with about $66,000 of that still on hand. The Primary Election, which wouldn’t be needed if Henriquez and Lee were the only candidates running, is Aug. 20. The General Election is Nov. 5, concurrent with this year’s presidential election. 

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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