Monday, July 9, 2018
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On July 1, when the Lee County preliminary tax rolls come out, there has generally been a slight increase from the estimated ones that come out the month before.
For the city of Cape Coral, that came into play again this year as the overall taxable property valuation increased 8.49 percent from last year. The estimated increase on June 1 had a slightly lower 8.10 percent increase.
But despite the positive numbers, County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson warns that Hurricane Irma could still result in less money than anticipated from the still-to-be-finalized numbers.
That's why city officials say they are in a state of caution as budget planning process begins.
Ciyt spokesperson Connie Barron said the slight increase could provide a bit more in property tax revenue, though nothing substantial.
"We're always pleased to see property value increase for our residents. They are moving in a positive direction and are more manageable from a budgetary and property value standpoint for residents," Barron said.
In 2017, Cape Coral had an even more robust year when overall taxable valuation went up 9.57 percent.
Councilmember Jennifer Nelson said the increase wasn't a big surprise to her as she was on the Budget Review Committee last year.
City Council now needs to weigh those numbers in light of both tax rates and needs, she said.
"You want to give the residents the benefit when the economy is strong with the tax rates with either the rollback rate or reducing the millage," Nelson said. "We have a lot of projects we need to fund and once the city manager puts out his budget we can evaluate that."
The rollback rate is the millage rate at which the city would bring in the same amount of revenue from property taxes.
In recent years, the increase in valuation has resulted in some decrease in the city's property tax rate. One was planned last year until Hurricane Irma and the costs of cleanup and property damage scuttled that idea.
The current millage rate is 6.750 mills, or $6.75 in taxes for every $1,000 in taxable value.
Councilmember Marilyn Stout said the rise in valuations will likely mean a raise in taxes and/or a windfall.
"I can't imagine the council will vote the rollback rate and I don't know how much money it means, but with new construction, I imagine we're looking at additional millions," Stout said. "I hope council, instead of wishing for many things, they stay conservative."
A 8.49 increase doesn't mean the city will get an 8.49 increase in revenue. Many homes fall under the Save Our Homes cap for homesteaded properties, which means tax increases can only go up according to the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 3 percent, whichever is lower. This year, the CPI is at 2.1 percent, Barron said.
Barron said the city still needs to be wise is its budgeting so that revenues and expenditures are managed properly.
"That's the beauty if having a three-year budget, which is what we have in place. It allows us to plan for this year and look out a few years to see where we might be to base our budget decisions," Barron said.
Lee County's tax valuation went up 6.12 percent, an increase from the estimate of 5.33 percent last month, but slightly lower than the 6.56 percent increase of 2017.
The final figures of all taxing districts will now be sent to Tallahassee for final approval. TRIM notices are mailed to property owners in August. Property owners will then have 25 days to resolve any disagreement in value with the property appraiser.
Wilkinson said that while there were a lot of pluses for property owners, there were also a lot of minuses because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and this could still affect the numbers.
"I would caution all taxing authorities not to spend it all because we will continue to have reductions. There are things they should be conscious of," Wilkinson said. "They shouldn't have to panic. The law is the law. We work with numbers, and I can't consider the effect it has on budgets. That's their problem."
Wilkinson said he expects the TRIM process to be much busier than normal post Irma, with more reductions expected with interior flood damage as well as seawalls.
"We expect the most since 2004 with (Hurricane) Charley. The adjustments for storm damage if it hasn't been repaired by last Jan. 1 will be recognized," Wilkinson said. "The big difference will be interior flood damage, which you can't see with the aerial or on the street."
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