Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County Property Appraiser candidate/incumbent Rick Singh.
City/town: Born in Guyana, grew up in the Bronx; moved to Central Florida in 1986
Family: Wife, Debbie; two adult children
Qualifications: I am a U.S. Army Veteran and a member of the International Association of Assessing Officers; the Rotary Club of Orlando; the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association; and the FAMU College of Law Dean’s Advisory Council. I am a licensed real estate broker and have more than 20 years of experience as a certified property appraiser.
Why do you want to run again for Orange County property appraiser?
I am committed to increasing the dollars returned to Orange County’s residents and taxpayers through fraud compliance, and to increasing revenues by ensuring that big business pays its way. The revenues generated via Orange County property appraisals have a direct impact on Central Florida’s quality of life, including funding for law enforcement, teacher salaries, affordable housing, infrastructure, parks and more. It is critical that we continue to have a professional property appraiser serving in this role. In addition, I have transformed the customer-service focus on the property appraiser’s office, using technology and training to boost customer satisfaction and efficiency.
What qualities and skills do you bring to the position?
With more than 20 years of professional appraisal experience, I am the only qualified candidate in the race, and one of very few people in the world that can say they have appraised upwards of $1 trillion of property. Orange County’s real estate marketplace is one of the most complex in the world – this is not a job for a political novice or amateur. So much of Orange County’s general tax revenue funding depends on the professional, fair and accurate appraisal of properties. In order to maintain strong funding, we need a professional, certified property appraiser.
Why are you the best candidate for the job?
For eight years, I have worked to transform the office of Orange County property appraiser. Through customer-service training and the innovative use of technology, we’ve revolutionized how we do business. Our approval ratings are nearly 100%, and the same goes for our appraisal valuations. We have also transformed access to data, allowing local government and business leaders to more accurately plan for affordable housing and economic development. I have also worked to increase the professional capabilities of the staff, including the hiring of MAI appraisers – a designation that is respected throughout the nation and industry.
What are the challenges of this office unique to Orange County?
Worldwide, there is simply no marketplace that compares to Orange County. As the home to every major theme park — as one of the largest resorts, dining, entertainment and hotel-room inventories in the world — our valuation structure is intensely complex. Experience is absolutely critical in accurately assessing Orange County’s real estate market. And the same goes for residential and non-tourism properties. We know that Orange County has an affordable-housing crisis – an inexperienced leader would not have any knowledge about Central Florida’s historic market fluctuations, particularly after the 2008 housing collapse.
How would you rate the performance of the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office and why?
Under my leadership, performance has soared. We have passed eight independent audits flawlessly, with zero findings. We continue to win prestigious national and international awards for customer service and appraisal excellence. We have boosted the level of professional training and certification and it shows, with more than 99% of our valuations upheld by the courts. In terms of dollars, our performance is unparalleled, with more than $1 trillion of valuation accomplished since 2013, more than $1 billion recovered for taxpayers through fraud compliance, and, on average, more than $1 million returned annually through efficient operations and budget management. The Orange County property appraiser’s office has never operated with such a high level of customer service and appraisal excellence.
What, if any, changes need to be made to the department?
In addition to continuing our customer service and appraisal-excellence programs, we will continue to incorporate cutting-edge technology — including machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-tech data access to ensure we are a strategic resource for our residents, customers and local government partners. And the same goes for high-wage, high-value economic development. It is critical that we continue to weigh economic incentives properly – through expanded data-analysis and other programs, we look forward to being a partner in Orange County’s future prosperity.
If re-elected, what do you hope to accomplish as property appraiser?
I want to continue to fight for the average taxpayer, the average homeowner, the single parent and the senior citizen struggling to balance a budget. In an area overflowing with opportunity, I am committed to making sure that big business and mega-tourism pay their fair share. And in the era of COVID, I am committed to finding ways to help all businesses get back to operating efficiently in our “new normal.” I am willing to stand up to very powerful special interests and to build upon my track record of providing real value to the people of Central Florida.
What are the challenges this office will face during and after COVID-19, and how will you address those challenges?
I appreciate the chance to share the Orange County Property Appraiser’s COVID-19 response plan, which was developed in February, and includes tiers of reactionary and precautionary actions to prepare for coronavirus in Central Florida. We moved rapidly to implement safety and business support measures for customers and staff: Our lobby closed on March 16; by March 23,100% of OCPA staff were working from home. We increased our web/chat capabilities, including the number of live customer-service reps. Appraisers in the field switched from site visits to remote interaction with property owners. For required inspections, our cars were outfitted with virus mitigation/sanitizing supplies. On March 26, I authorized automatic extensions for tangible personal property tax returns. On April 1, I announced extensions for income/expense surveys until May 29. On April 8, I announced the delayed filing of liens. In addition, we have leveraged technology by building a user-friendly BOT that quickly resolves to a live customer-service representative if needed.