Even as the real estate market continues to improve, Franklin County’s overall tax base dropped a wee bit this year, due mainly to the statewide cap on annual increases to the value of non-homestead properties.
According to preliminary numbers Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper’s office provided the Florida Department of Revenue by the July 1 deadline, the county’s combined taxable value will drop to $1.632 billion from $1.636 billion last year, a mere two-tenths of 1 percent.
This is a sharp improvement over last year’s 12.7 percent slide, and marks the seventh consecutive year the tax base has shrank. It is now less than half the size it was in 2006, and nearly exactly what it was a decade ago.
Were it not for the law, approved by Florida voters in 2008 as a change to the state constitution that caps increase to the value of non-homesteaded properties at not more than 10 percent annually, the overall tax base would have grown.
Such was the case of the school board’s tax base, which was not subject to the 10 percent cap. The school district’s combined property tax valuation rose from $1.696 billion to $1.715 billion, or $19 million, or roughly 1.1 percent.
“That’s a good example right there of how much it (cap on non-homestead calculation increases) takes off of it (the tax base),” Skipper said. “You can see the real estate values are turning around a little bit.”
To underscore the effect that the 10 percent non-homestead cap has had, Skipper noted that of the county’s 19,000 parcels of land, fewer than 2,000 were subject to sales last year.
“Only 2,000 could go to an actual market value this year and not be capped,” she said, adding that at the height of the market a few years ago, about 3,000 to 3,500 parcels were sold in a typical year.
“You’re not going to see a big jump in the future,” she said. “We are very limited with our increase as far as taxable value.”
Skipper, in her first year as property appraiser after being elected without opposition last fall, said she believes the real estate is making a slow and steady comeback. “The biggest increase was probably on St. George Island,” she said. “”We’ve had some areas over there that are really turning around big time, on the gulf side.”
The city of Carrabelle was the only taxing district to see an enlargement of its tax base, after having suffered a nearly 26 percent decline last year. Carrabelle’s combined valuation this year will expand from $101.8 million to $102.7 million, an increase of $916,000, or nearly 1 percent.
The sharpest decline in the county was seen in the tax base of the Dog Island Conservation District, which went from $32.7 million to $29.4 million, a 10 percent drop of about $3.3 million. Skipper said erosion has taken away several lots that otherwise would have contributed to that tax base. “A couple of areas are almost washed in two,” she said.
The next steepest drop in the county was seen in Apalachicola, whose tax base fell from $126.4 million to $117.7 million, or by about $8.6 million, or 6.8 percent.
The Eastpoint Water and Sewer District is expected to see a 3.6 percent drop in its tax base, a loss of $2.5 million, from $68.3 million to $65.8 million.
The Alligator Point Water and Sewer District will experience a drop in its tax base from $122.3 million to $119 million, a decline of $3.3 million, or about 2.6 percent.
The Northwest Florida Water Management District, which is similar in size to the county base, will see a drop from $1.641 billion to $1.637 billion, a slide of $4 million, or about a two-tenth of 1 percent drop.
Last year, the county levied 5.9637 mills in property taxes, but with the upcoming July 18 and 19 budget workshops, county commissioners will have to weigh whether to increase the millage, cut spending, or a combination of both.
Skipper said this year’s in-depth audit by the Florida Department of Revenue, which is conducted every two years, is about complete and that her office has been told the report will be a positive one. “We’re just waiting on an official letter that we’ve passed,” she said.