The tax base in Franklin County this past year continued the steady modest climb it has maintained every year since it hit a 21st century low during the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper said certified preliminary property values she submitted earlier this month to the state showed the county’s tax base grew from $1.83 billion to $1.89 billion, a growth of 3.46 percent, or about $63 million.
That size of the tax base puts the county right about where it was in 2011-12, but well below the high of about $4.1 billion that it reached a decade ago.
The county tax base has picked up steam ever since 2013-14, when it stood at $1.63 billion. The following year it grew by about $20 million, and then by $40 million the next year, and then about $72 million the year after that, and by another $62 million last year.
“We’re starting to see a little bit of a steady growth each year,” said Skipper. “That’s encouraging.
“I think a 3 to 3.5 percent growth is really great, especially since so much of our property stayed on as government-owned,” she said. “I think it (the tax base) been continuously picking up on a small scale, not by huge leaps and bounds.”
Because there are variations on the extent property owners can take exemptions, the valuations of the other two countywide taxing authorities were each a little higher.
The tax base of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, which does not allow for an exemption extended by the county and both cities to low-income seniors of an additional $50,000 off their property valuation, was slightly higher, as it rose by 3.35 percent, or about $63.5 million, from $1.83 billion to $1.9 billion.
The Franklin County School District, which does not have the low income senior exemption, does not allow for an additional $25,000 in homesteaded exemption and is not subject to a 10 percent annual cap on non-homesteaded property, grew from $1.944 billion to $2.02 billion, an expansion of about $77 million, or about 3.81 percent.
On a percentage basis, this countywide growth was about one-half to 1 percent greater than the growth the year before.
On the eastern end of the county, growth in Alligator Point was the highest of any of the county’s various taxing authorities. The tax base there expanded from $124.5 million to $133.1 million, or by about $8.6 million, or 6.45 percent. This exceeded the growth one year ago by about 1 percentage point.
Carrabelle, which has recovered more gradually from the bursting of the real estate bubble, saw a healthy jump of $5.5 million, from $104.3 million to $109.8 million, or about 5 percent, almost double the percentage hike of a year ago.
“For first time I have seen growth in Carrabelle where I’m seeing values turn around there,” said Skipper. “We probably had more sales to work with in the city of Carrabelle than I have since being in office.”
Skipper first took office Jan. 1, 2013, and was re-elected in 2016 without opposition.
Across the water from Carrabelle, Dog Island saw a decrease in its tax base, the only taxing authority in Franklin County to see shrinkage.
Dog Island’s property values dropped from $27.8 million to $27.5 million, a decline of about $322,000, or 1.17 percent. The drop was in contrast with one year ago, when the tax base rose by a seven-tenths of 1 percent.
“They’re eroding away, they’re losing land left and right,” said Skipper. “They have areas there where the island’s cut almost in two.”
Growth in Eastpoint, as measured by its water and sewer district, mirrored that of the county, as the tax base there expanded by 3.24 percent, growing from $64.4 million to $66.6 million, a boost of about $2.2 million. That growth was better than one year ago, when Eastpoint saw an expansion of just about one-third of 1 percent.
Because the tax bill is for assessments made during 2017, Skipper cannot alter the tax obligations for any of the properties affected by the Lime Rock Road fire.
“There’s nothing I’ll be able to do legally for them this year, especially since there were no declarations of emergency,” Skipper said. “Also the majority of those properties were homesteaded so a lot of these were covered under the $50,000 homestead exemption.”
Across the river, Apalachicola saw a slightly smaller 3 percent increase in its tax base, as it went from $142.9 million to $147.3 million, an expansion of $4.4 million. This rise was smaller than the 5.5 percent growth the city experienced a year ago.
Skipper said the county’s 19,000 TRIM (Truth in Millage) notices will be mailed out August 13, with the process this year handled in-house, as opposed to farming them out to a printing company.
“We normally send the files to someone else, but they keep increasing (in price),” she said. “This year we’re processing in house. I think we can save money by having have staff printing the inserts.”
Skipper encouraged property owners who have questions about their appraisals to contact her office, before they lodge a formal challenge that must go through the Value Adjustment Board.
“There’s been numerous times when all they had to do is talk to us and talk about it,” Skipper said. “I hate to see people pay filing fees when all they have to do is pick the phone up and call us.”
Skipper’s office can be reached at 653-9236.