Volunteer Spotlight: Miriam Nicklaus, Catholic Charities

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

I am so very pleased to share with you my experience with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida. Many people think that this agency only serves people of the Roman Catholic faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Catholic Charities serves based on need, not creed.

Many people only know the agency through Christmas Connection and still others did not even realize that Christmas Connection is a program of Catholic Charities. This is only one of the programs and services offered by Catholic Charities. “Providing Help, Creating Hope, Serving All” is the mantra, and this is why I got involved in the first place.

Catholic Charities is one of the major agencies in Tallahassee that truly helps the most vulnerable people in our community. People hit hard times. A lot of people are only one paycheck away from being unable to pay rent, utilities, or buy food for their families. Catholic Charities is that safety net for them. Catholic Charities offers people a hand up. Not only are people offered financial help with bills and food for their families, one of the programs, Circles, provides financial literacy training for clients to help families lift themselves out of poverty.   

Our country continues to address the issue of immigration. There are many families and individuals that are persecuted for their beliefs in their home countries. Catholic Charities offers a safe haven for them. The Tallahassee office is currently helping many of these immigrant families escape persecution, providing them with a place to live, with necessary furniture and supplies, and enrolling the children in school. Overall, we assist the families in their new start in a new country and community.  

The program that Tallahassee is well aware of is Christmas Connection—and it is amazing! In 2013, we provided Christmas to more than 600 families—600 families that would not have had Christmas otherwise. Working at the facility, adopting a family, and making donations are great opportunities for us to learn about the need in our community. Christmas Connection has grown over the years. Catholic Charities works with case managers from over 60 community agencies to identify recipients. It takes hundreds of volunteers make this program possible.

I have been involved with Christmas Connection for over a decade, and my involvement is nothing compared to that of many other volunteers. When my children were young, we volunteered together, and they learned about the importance of helping those less fortunate than themselves. Christmas Connection families make a wish list; many people think it is all about electronics and fancy items, but the lists are filled with basic needs, including clothing, food, and toiletries. In delivering Christmas to the families you are filled with a feeling that is hard to describe.

As a Friend of Catholic Charities, I have gained so much more than I have given. My main duty is to help raise awareness of our programs, to raise money needed to run the programs, and to offer my assistance to further the mission of Catholic Charities.

Won’t you join me? You can help by adopting a family during the Christmas Connection. Several brokerages have adopted families over the years. I challenge all of the real estate brokerages in Tallahassee to adopt a family. Please contact me if you have any questions: miriam@armorrealty.com.   

Miriam Nicklaus
2014 Secretary, TBR
Armor Realty of Tallahassee

President’s Message: Presidential Gala

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

While this year we have highlighted many of the multiple charities that all of our REALTOR® and Affiliate business partners are involved in, I have chosen American Cancer Society (ACS) as our 2014 Gala charity. 

ACS is an organization that is trying to help find cures and improve the quality of life for the many victims of Cancer. Everyone is impacted by cancer—as individuals, or through friends or family. I lost both of my parents to cancer; our community mourned as little 10 year old Trent McElroy lost his battle last year; and we have many past presidents of TBR who have battled and are currently fighting cancer. 

The good news is there have been more advancements in cancer research in the last 10 years than in the prior 100 years. Research facilities, trained medical professionals, and scientists all require a tremendous amount of resources to continue to fight this battle. We have thousands of young, brilliant minds that are recruited into medical research every year; who knows when the next great breakthrough will come.

 Thank you everyone for doing your part in helping with this ongoing struggle. Please reach out to your fellow members who are going through these trying times, and consider supporting ACS. 

Join us at the “Denim & Diamonds” Presidential Gala on October 24 at Goodwood. Great music by DeepWater Band, dancing, Casino Nights, food by 101 Restaurant, chances to win prizes (dance competition; party bucket drawing; Diamond Lakes; Clue Whodunit contest)—and support for a great charity! 

God bless you. 

Jeffrey D. Doxsee, Sr.
2014 TBR President
Capital Property Consultants

What’s New in Apple’s IOS 8 Mobile Operating System

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Apple’s IOS 8 operating system is available for download and installation. What’s included? Before I answer that, consider the following before you take the plunge and upgrade to IOS 8: 

  • Perform a full backup of your device, just in case you have technical issues during the update process. 
  • Installer beware. While the free download is available to iPhone 4S, 5, 5C and 5S, there are a few things you should consider. If your device is an older Apple device, say the 4s or the iPad 2, you might want to sit this update out. In the past, older devices did not work well with new Apple updates. In 2013, a lot of device owners had issues with older devices that they upgraded to IOS 7. 
  • Before performing the update, delete any old apps you no longer use. 
  • IOS 8 will take about 3 GB of space, so you made need to remove some of your photos and videos to make room for the upgrade. 

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, what are you getting if you update to IOS 8? 

New Features in IOS 8: 

Pay – Apple’s new mobile payment system allows you to make purchases with your mobile device at participating retailers. 

Notification – IOS 8 has a new notification system that will allow you to reply to messages and interact with alerts from the drop-down menu and the lock screen. 

Health App – Apple’s new app to track your fitness. 

Suggestive Typing – One of my favorites. IOS 8 can predict what you may want to type next. Based on your typing habits, it then will suggest words that may logically complete your thoughts and sentences in the message or email. 

Shortcuts – If you double-click the home button, it will provide you with shortcuts to contact the people you have spoken to most recently. Icons with either their initials or their faces will appear across the top of the screen. Just tap the icon to message or call them. 

iCloud Drive – Yes, it’s similar to Google Drive and Dropbox. With iCloud Drive, you can edit, browse, and share files across multiple Apple devices. Mac support won’t come until later in the year. 

Control Center – Control Center has been redesigned with black borders around icons being removed and icons white when activated.

Battery Usage – Ever wonder which apps are hogging your battery life? Tap General, then Usage, then Battery Usage to see which apps have used the most battery over the last 24 hours. You can also tap the last seven days feature to see what’s been using the most battery over a longer period of time. 

For advice or questions about technology, please contact the CATRS Technology Support Desk at 850-224-7713. 

Paul Galloway
Manager of Association Technology

Understanding Florida’s Property Tax Amendments, Part Five

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Business owners in Florida have long paid taxes on the value of the furniture, fixtures, and equipment owned and used by the business. Referred to as tangible personal property, or TPP, the value is taxed in much the same manner as real estate. A detailed list of the personal property is submitted to the property appraiser’s office by filing a tangible personal property tax return, from which the assessed value is calculated. Millage rates for the different taxing authorities are applied to the value, and a tax bill is created. 

Until the passage of amendment 1, there were no exemptions, or caps on value increases for tangible personal property accounts. This changed in 2008 with a provision of the amendment that allows an exemption of $25,000 of assessed value for TPP accounts. After an initial TPP tax return is filed, and the assessed value is determined, the exemption is applied automatically resulting in a lower taxable value. Many small business owners with total personal property value less than $25,000 will receive the exemption and essentially have zero taxable value on their accounts. 

Doug Will, AAS, CFE
Chief Deputy-Appraisal Services
Leon County Property Appraiser’s Offic

Legal Update: Student Loans and the Housing Industry

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

The debt needed to fund the American dream may be exactly what keeps the American dream from being realized. Student debt, not largely nondischargeable in bankruptcy, is accruing at a far faster rate than any other debt, and in a few years will be what keeps those college graduates (assuming they graduate) from being able to afford to purchase a home. The consequences could be catastrophic; there is no simple solution. 

The cost of a college education is going up. The funding of higher education has to look to resources from students. And students do not just pay tuition; they also pay for a lifestyle outside of the old, classic dorm and cafeteria of decades gone by. The simple fact is that young and older people will not be able to purchase homes when they are saddled with $100,000 in student debt, and obtain jobs that pay $30,000 or so. 

During the Great Recession, student loan debt is the only household debt that went up. It now exceeds all car loan debt; it exceeds all credit card debt, according the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Between 2004 and 2012, the number of student borrowers and the amount borrowed skyrocketed by 70 percent. Forty percent of households led by someone under 35 has a student loan, according to the 2012 Pew Research Center study. 

It is not a question of whether there should be student loans, or whether people who get educated by reliance on such funding should repay the loans, but rather the impact that such huge, nondischargable, lifelong debt will have on our economy in the coming decades. 

Choices made now and the magnitude of those choices may undermine future economic growth. And to put it in perspective, think of the difference in choices we all would have made in the last 10 years, with a $100,000 unsecured but nondischargable debt on our back. 

The legal point of this is clear. By changing laws in the last 15 years on dischargeability of student debt, and government insuring some student debt, it has become an integral part of our economy. But for those changes, there is little doubt that the debt would be less. Some may not have been able to go to college; that is the tradeoff. But just as there has been a shock here about flood insurance and no one saw it coming, the same will be said when a generation of students are saddled with hopeless debt, that even now exceeds $1 trillion. 

Joe R. Boyd
TBR Legal Counsel
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Boyd & DuRant, P.L.

Volunteer Spotlight: United Way of the Big Bend – Virginia Glass

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

United Way of the Big Bend (UWBB) has been a major contributor to our community’s health and human service arena for 71 years. Our Community Care fund has provided relief and assistance to those in need throughout our eight counties: Leon, Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla. 

We partner with 41 agencies to provide basic needs assistance to help improve the quality of life for individuals in our community. UWBB partners with the City of Tallahassee and Leon County in a funding process called the Community Human Services Partnership (CHSP). Each spring, over 100 volunteers sit on Community Investment teams throughout the Big Bend. They review funding requests from certified agencies and make decisions based on their review. Funds are then distributed based on the available dollars in a manner that ensures a balanced, effective, and efficient human service delivery system for our community. 

Over the years, UWBB has remained true to its founding goals. We are dedicated to supporting the greatest variety of human service agencies in the local area, helping people from all walks of life and income groups, and creating collaborative strategies that result in long-lasting, positive cane. UWBB is looking to the future with new and innovative ideas of improving our community. In addition to the support provided to our 41 health and human service partner agencies, we are also committed to providing services through education, income, and health programs. BEST Project, ReadingPals, and Read United are the newest initiatives UWBB has introduced to our community. 

Did you know that $5 per pay period provides over 500 pounds of food that will feed a family of four for two months? 

Did you know that $10 per pay period provides eight days of foster care for a youth who has been abused? 

I have always been a donor to the United Way, and have been a Leadership Giver for many years. I have also been a volunteer screening the various nonprofits through CHSP and overseeing the allocation of their funding. As Campaign Chair of the 2014 Capital Campaign, I will be working closely with our eight-county region. To learn how you can help, call me or visit uwbb.org

Virginia Glass
Coldwell Banker Hartung and Noblin, Inc.

Members Receive Honors at Florida REALTORS® Convention

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Lillian Jack (JAL Realty) was recognized by Florida REALTORS®’ board of directors for her work locally on behalf of the homeless, where she often can be found quietly handing out muffins and water to people awaiting entrance to The Shelter.

The Florida REALTORS® leadership team recently spent two months traveling the state to advocate, engage, and collaborate with REALTORS® to raise awareness about the homelessness problem in our state, and Lillian’s efforts impressed them. She was in Orlando last week to attend the Florida REALTORS® annual convention, but missed their praise—she was busy volunteering at an Orlando-area homeless shelter that morning.

Lillian is past chairman of the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS® Commercial Council and Brokers’ Outreach program.

Patti Ketcham (Ketcham Realty Group) received Florida REALTORS®’ Education Individual Achievement Award at the state association’s annual convention last week in Orlando. Patti instructs classes at TBR and throughout the state, including diversity training; specialized instruction for agents working with senior citizens; and the Florida core law update, which is required by the state for real estate license renewal.

The Florida Department of Professional Regulation (DBPR) Division of Real Estate has invited Patti and her husband, Clay Ketcham, to provide instruction to their investigators and attorneys, with the goal of understanding the “real world” of real estate. She continues to work as a subject matter expert for DBPR and most recently provided assistance in rewriting the state’s real estate broker licensing exam.

Patti is a past president of the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS® and past district vice president of Florida REALTORS®.

Midtown Revival

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

The once sleepy area of Tallahassee between downtown and the suburbs has evolved into an 18-hour destination. In 2010, the City of Tallahassee, in conjunction with a working group of citizens and several members of the Midtown Merchants Association, visualized the possibilities that this special area could develop into. Midtown is perfectly situated in the middle of the city, surrounded by neighborhoods like Lafayette Park, Los Robles, Lake Ella, Glenview, Glendale, Levy Park, and Betton Hills, with downtown just a few blocks south. 

The planning department devised a plan to implement the infrastructure that would be needed to accomplish the goal of creating “A Sense of Place.” “Midtown Placemaking” created a “Midtown” brand to form a visual edge for the district while promoting the arts through murals, music, fashion, and cuisine. A prime concern was safety for pedestrians, as evidenced by the new crosswalk with blinking lights on Thomasville Road and Gadsden Street, creating a walkable and bikeable community. Another goal was to reclaim or create new public spaces as evidenced by the 5th Avenue Park, right between Whataburger and the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS®.  As a result, Midtown is a live, work, play community. 

Midtown has become a trendy district, merging business and pleasure into one area from sunrise into late evening. At any given time you can pick your activity of interest, whether it be a cup of coffee or fine dining, a trip to Whole Foods, getting new soles for your shoes, an evening walk by the gas lights on 5th and 7th Avenues, or real “sweat therapy.” You can choose among many fine shops and personal services for your entertainment. Midtown is known for its many fundraising events, with the popular Midtown Idol as an example, working to raise funds for various organizations. 

The focus of Midtown is to help the businesses be profitable, allowing people to enjoy all the activities in the district, while maintaining collaboration with the City of Tallahassee and all the Midtown Merchants and residents. 

Come walk or ride the StarMetro Rhythm Route Trolley or a Pedicab and get a feel for all this unique area can offer your buyers! Download the Midtown App on your phone, “iheart midtown,” to start planning your fun (for Android and iPhone). 

Caryl Pierce
NAI TALCOR

Understanding Florida’s Property Tax Amendments, Part Four

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Amendment 1, approved by voters in 2008, details four provisions relating to property taxes. We have explored the portability elements of Save Our Homes (SOH) benefits, and we have highlighted the inclusion of an additional homestead exemption. A third provision of the amendment allows benefits for commercial properties and non-homesteaded properties alike.  

Similar to the longstanding SOH statute which caps assessed value for homestead properties, this provision caps the assessed value for commercial and non-homestead properties at a maximum increase of 10% annually. This includes retail properties, offices, industrial, multifamily housing, townhouses, rentals, and vacant parcels, among others. Essentially, all properties now benefit from annual limitations on assessed value increases. For homestead properties, the SOH provision caps the annual increase at 3%, while this new statute caps all other parcels at no more than 10% annually. 

However, one rule applies in the calculation of the 10% cap. The cap does not apply to the school board millage. Consider an example of a commercial property where the market value increased from $500,000 the previous year, to $600,000 in the current year. School board millage rates would apply to $600,000 while all other taxing authorities would apply their millage rates to $550,000 (previous year + 10%). The calculation of taxable value appears in the following table:                         

Example of Property with a 10% Cap – Taxable Value

Taxing Authority

Market Value

Previous Year Value of $500,000

Capped Forward at 10%

Taxable Value

City

$600,000

$550,000

$550,000

County

$600,000

$550,000

$550,000

MSTU-EMS

$600,000

$550,000

$550,000

School

$600,000

Does not apply

$600,000

Water Management

$600,000

$550,000

$550,000

From the table you will notice the taxable value applied to the school board millage is the market value, since the 10% cap does not apply. All other taxing authorities will apply millage rates to the capped value of $550,000.  

The fourth, and final, provision of amendment 1 offers benefits to business owners with a $25,000 exemption of the value of tangible personal property, and will be detailed in the next article in this series.  

Doug Will, AAS, CFE
Chief Deputy-Appraisal Services
Leon County Property Appraiser’s Office    

Threatened and Endangered Species

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Do Your Due Diligence: Environmental Assessments of Commercial Properties 

Bordered by water, but attached to the continent—almost an island, but not quite—Florida offers us a diversity of climates and temperatures, which results in a wonderful variety of plants and animals. As a result of our great climate, thousands of people move here every year and this puts pressure on native plant and animal species as their habitats disappear. The state and federal government are charged with protecting these imperiled species and they have a variety of laws and rules at their disposal. However, sometimes these laws come into direct conflict with the goals of a development project. Ideally, before land is purchased for a project, you should have an idea as to whether or not you have threatened or endangered species living there. 

“Threatened and endangered species” is a term used to describe a plant or animal that is at risk of becoming extinct. “Threatened” usually means that the organism is likely to become extinct in the future. “Endangered” means that the species is at the brink of extinction now.

There are many laws, both at the state and federal government level, that deal with endangered species. Starting at the top, the federal government protects many species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the list of endangered, threatened, and imperiled species, and writes the rules that govern how we interact with them. 

Migratory birds come under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Some 800 birds are protected under this law. This also includes bird parts, such as feathers, and bird eggs and nests. Common protected birds that you may be familiar with include eagles, owls, hawks, ospreys, vultures, kites, and falcons. 

The State of Florida also has a list of protected species, managed under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The FWC list shows both the federal and state species. 

The most common species that you may find on a parcel of land are described below: 

Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are large, long-lived, terrestrial reptiles that are commonly found in sandy soils in uplands. They prefer an open canopy (not a lot of big shade trees) as they need sunlight to maintain body temperature. They also prefer a diversity of groundcover plants for food, and an open understory so that they can move around with ease. Gophers are considered a keystone species; over 300+ other species depend on the gopher tortoise for survival, as they live in their distinct, deep burrows. Gophers are listed as Threatened by FWC and, as such, you are not allowed to disturb them or their burrows. You must obtain a permit from the FWC if you need to relocate a tortoise. 

Permitting and relocating tortoises can be an expensive undertaking. As part of your due-diligence period, it would be wise to assess the property to see if it contains the proper habitat for tortoises and, if so, to hire an experienced, authorized gopher tortoise agent to conduct a survey to see if there are any burrows. A list of agents is found at the FWC online locater map

If gopher tortoise burrows are found, your best option is to modify your proposed development plan to avoid them. If you can’t do that, you may want to begin the permitting process to relocate them. If the abundance of burrows is high, or the cost to relocate is prohibitive, then maybe that property isn’t right for your project at this time. 

The other threatened and endangered species that you may have on your property are raptors (nests), which mostly include ospreys (Pandion haliaetus). Ospreys are protected both by the FWC in Florida and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Permits are required to remove inactive nests, and active nests can be removed only if they are providing a safety or health hazard, such as nesting on a power pole; here are nest removal guidelines. Osprey nests are typically found in wetlands or near waterbodies, so it is likely that your project will avoid them anyway. 

While the bald eagle is no longer on the official endangered species list due to its continued recovery, it still has protection under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940, and the Migratory Bird Act. So you still need a permit to disturb a nest. 

Endangered plants also have protection status, and while you don’t have removal and relocation permitting issues typically, you might find that their presence can impact the overall assessment that a government agency makes on your parcel. A local government, for example, may require you to avoid a certain area with protected plants, or provide mitigation for their potential destruction.

As always, finding out about potential problems on your site before you enter into your final contract phase are well worth a little upfront time and cost to fully understand what you are getting into. 

You’ll be glad to know, by the way, that fire ants and yellow flies aren’t protected under any laws. 

Valerie Weeks
The Phoenix Environmental Group, Inc.