In the Republican primary for Hillsborough County property appraiser, incumbent Rob Turner is being challenged by James Robert Townsend, a Plant City resident and technician at the Hardee Power Station.
The winner will face Democrat Ken Ayers in November's general election.
Townsend, who has had disputes with Turner's office, accuses the tax appraiser of being overly aggressive in tracking an "overheated property market."
Townsend may be well-meaning, but nothing in his background suggests he could handle this critical post.
Moreover, Turner, seeking his fourth term, has a solid record. He runs an efficient, customer-friendly operation.
Turner cleaned up an office that was plagued by inequities and ethical problems. There has been no hint of scandal during his watch. He reduced the number of employees from 178 to 147, though the number of parcels that must be appraised has increased by 116,000 since he took over.
To residents like Townsend who say he has been too quick to increase appraisals, Turner responds that he has no choice. State law requires his office to value all real estate annually at 100 percent of fair market value, which is based on the prior year's sales and market value.
And according to the state Department of Revenue, Hillsborough's increases in property values during the last few years are slightly lower than the statewide average and lower than most urban counties.
We have a few issues with Turner. He was slow to recognize how the requirement that properties be taxed at their "highest and best use" was forcing mom-and-pop operations to sell out. He now supports a tax break for "legacy" properties that are still in operation, a good move.
And while participating on a tax-reform commission appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, Turner suggested that home renovations or additions be taxed as soon as they are made, rather than waiting until the following January. His emphasis on up-to-the-minute accurate appraisals is admirable, but can seem overzealous.
Still, Turner can hardly be considered indifferent to taxpayers' plight. He has pushed for local governments to control spending and cut tax rates as revenues from property taxes increased. He proposed, in our view, the best statewide property tax reform.
His thoughtful package of changes would have begun to reduce the huge disparity in tax bills for similar properties and would have given homeowners tax relief by capping what local governments could collect each year.
Unfortunately, lawmakers presented voters with Amendment 1, a disappointing measure that ignores inequities and has not achieved the promised tax reduction.
Bottom line: Rob Turner is informed, dedicated and effective. In the Republican primary for Hillsborough County property appraiser, the Tribune endorses Rob Turner.