© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

DeSantis Promises Property Tax Aid After Collapse

Rescue workers search in the rubble Saturday at the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.
Lynne Sladky
Rescue workers search in the rubble Saturday at the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.

Property tax relief is in the works after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday as the death count reached 60.

With rescue efforts for survivors ending at the site of the former 12-story building, DeSantis didn’t elaborate on his plan for tax assistance but said he will provide “as much relief to the families from the state perspective as we can.”

“I've ordered all our folks to suspend any type of property-tax enforcement,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Surfside. “My goal is to suspend, waive any law I can under the state of emergency to forestall that. And then we probably will just ask the Legislature to remit any of the property tax liability from Champlain Towers South.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately reply to requests for clarification of DeSantis’ tax proposal, but the annual property-tax process was underway before the building collapsed on June 24.

Tax bills are based on appraised property values as of Jan. 1. The Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Office is scheduled to mail out Truth in Millage, or TRIM, notices at the end of August that reflect what property taxes could be in November tax bills.

During the news conference, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the number of confirmed deaths had reached 60, with 35 victims identified. Another 80 people were listed as potentially missing.

“Our teams paused their work on the pile this morning around 1:20 a.m. for a brief moment of silence to honor the two-week mark since the collapse. And we have now officially transitioned from search and rescue to search and recovery,” Cava said. “The work continues with all speed and urgency. All task forces are being deployed from across the country and the world. We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can.”

One focus after the collapse has been degradation of reinforced concrete support in the building’s underground parking garage and corrosion of reinforcing steel. The remaining section of the building was demolished on Sunday.

“The work is going to go on, and obviously they're going to identify every single person,” DeSantis said. “We obviously want to do all we can for the survivors and the family members, to get them on their feet as best as we possibly can. It is not going to be easy. This is a big void that's going to be felt not just in these families, but in this community as a whole.”

During an appearance Wednesday in Tallahassee, DeSantis couldn’t say if the disaster will require extensive changes on issues such as building inspections or construction.

“Having talked with people who've been on the scene, people who've done stuff, I think this building had problems from the start. Let’s put it that way,” DeSantis said.

At Thursday’s news conference, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett expressed thanks for the local, state, and federal assistance to his community, before adding, “By the way, we are all still praying for a miracle. We haven't given up all hope.”

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida Democrat, said the long-term needs of families affected by this “unimaginable, unprecedented tragedy” will continue to be addressed by federal agencies.

“No one budgets for this. No one plans for the kind of response that is necessary,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Making sure that we stay in this for the long haul is going to be absolutely essential. And we don't know just what the needs are going to be. Some of them are going to be needs that we can try to accommodate by adding to the federal budget. Some of them may ultimately end up requiring an emergency supplemental appropriations bill.”

Jim Turner - News Service of Florida