It looks like Franklin County will take a baby step when it comes to growing its tax base this year.
Based on an early good faith estimate, required by the Florida Department of Revenue in June, Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper is forecasting under 2 percent growth for the county’s taxing districts, and in some cases, just a fraction of 1 percent.
The very good news, though, is that none of them declined, signaling that the county is continuing its slow trudge back from when the real estate bubble burst, and puts revenuet at the size it was roughly six years ago.
“We still have areas growing,” said Skipper. “We still see, of course, the coastal areas of the county are gaining in value a little more quickly than inland portions.”
The largest of the countywide taxing authorities, the Franklin County School District, is estimated to see a climb of $10 million, from $1.89 billion to $1.9 billion, for a jump of only about one-half of 1 percent.
The other two countywide districts , the Northwest Florida Water Management District, and the Board of County Commissioners, are both up $20 million, or each about 1.1 percent. The water district is projected to go from $1.77 billion to $1.79 billion, while the county will go from $1.76 billion to $1.78 billion.
Apalachicola saw better growth than the county as a whole, as the city’s tax base swelled by $2.5 million, from $135.5 million to $138 million, or about 1.8 percent. Carrabelle, which has recovered more slowly from the bursting of the real estate bubble, saw a rise of only $200,000, from $101.3 to $101.5 million, or only about two-tenths of 1 percent.
“I worry about our two cities,” said Skipper. “They’re almost tapped out on their millage rates.”
Eastpoint, as measured by its water and sewer district, saw a slight increase of about $200,000, up from $63.9 million to $64.1 million, or by just about one-third of 1 percent.
On the eastern end, Alligator Point saw its tax base expand by $1.1 million, from $117.9 million to $1.9 million, or growth of about nine-tenths of 1 percent. “I don’t know if it's because of the road conditions, but it’s a little bit slower coming back in coastal value,” she said.
Offshore, Dog Island’s property values are expected to climb by $200,000, from $27.6 million to $27.8 million, or an expansion by seven-tenths of 1 percent.
“St. George island is still the tax base,” said Skipper. “The beachfront along the east and Carrabelle are picking up a little bit but not a lot.”
She said she is watching carefully a ballot measure, passed this spring by the state legislature, that if apprpoved by Florida voters next year would add an additional $25,000 to the homestead exemption, except in the case of the schools, which it would not affect.
As it stands now, Franklin County homeowners get a combined $50,000 homestead exemption, except for the schools, which are immune to the effect of half of that.
“The way it reads currently, with that second $25,000, the state supplements a portion of what is lost off your rolls to a fiscally constrained county, such as ours,” Skipper said. “So we do get part of that funding back.”
She said plans appear to be to do the same with this third $25,000 chunk of the homestead exemption, but it is not yet clear if that is the final version.
“If the state does otherwise, then it could be devastating to Franklin County,” Skipper said. “It could be crippling to a county as small as Franklin.”