The announcement last month by the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. that $15 million would be set aside from the BP oil spill money for a fund to mitigate an expected loss in tax revenue for Franklin and three other counties impacted by Hurricane Michael seemed like a breath of fresh air.
But, as it turns out, the county is breathing just fine.
In a report last week to county commissioners, Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper said a preliminary analysis, requested by the Triumph board to be submitted to them by March, indicates all of the taxing districts will likely show an increase in their tax bases, with the exception of the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District and Dog Island.
And, she added, the main reason those two taxing districts haven’t shown an increase is because all the land value changes have yet to be factored in.
“We haven’t totally worked our land value changes there. I’m not sure they’re going to totally come back from the loss. They should be close to even,” said Skipper.
The market values for the three largest taxing authorities –the county, the school district and the Northwest Florida Water Management District – have all dropped from last year’s certified value of $2.85 billion.
Each is expected to lose about $7 million in market value, in large part due to the effect of Hurricane Michael.
But, because taxable values, which is the amount upon which millage is applied, are affected by limits imposed in state law, these values will actually increase. That’s because the law sets a cap on annual increases on homesteaded properties of 3 percent, or if it lower, then the annual rise in the consumer price increase, which this year is 1.9 percent.
There’s also a 10 percent cap on the assessed value of non-homesteaded properties that have not sold or changed hands in the past year.
Because the gaps between the market and taxable values have steadily widened since the end of the housing bubble, the taxable values will grow this year.
In fact, combined market values would have to shrink by more than $920 million before they would intersect with the taxable values, which likely won’t happen unless there is a future housing bubble burst.
In the case of the county and the water management district, the taxable value is expected to rise from $1.9 billion to $1.92 billion, a growth of about $28 million. In the case of the schools, which allows for a lesser amount of tax exemptions, the tax base will grow from $2.03 billion to $2.032 billion, an expansion of about $2 million.
Growth in both the market value and the taxable value is forecast for the city of Apalachicola. Its combined market value will grow from $240 million last year to $245 million, with its taxable values expanding from $148 million to $154 million, a growth of about $5.6 million.
In the city of Carrabelle, market values are expected to decline from $160.2 million to $158.7 million, but taxable values are forecast to grow from $110.1 million to $112.2 million, an expansion of about $2.1 million.
On Alligator Point, the market values shrank from $163.9 million to $161.3 million, but the tax base expanded from $133.7 million to $134.7 million, a growth of about $1.1 million.
Skipper said that in Eastpoint, the market values went from $112 million to $110.6 million, with taxable values declining by about $716,000, from $67 million to $66.3 million.
On Dog Island, preliminary indications are that combined market values will drop from $37.7 million to $36.8 million, and with that will come a half-million dollar drop in the tax base, from $27.5 million to $27 million.
“Next week we’re going over there, three days, end-to-end,” said Skipper.
She said that while March 1 is a few months ahead of the schedule, in which preliminary estimates are provided by June 1, and preliminary certification of the tax rolls by July 1, the numbers so far should hold up in time for the upcoming budget deliberations.
“We’re still working sales, but all hurricane damages are in the system,” Skipper said. “If anything we’ll see more increase in taxable value, slightly, I don’t think a whole lot.
“We’re still not going to see a whole lot of gain with anything. We’ll see a little bit more, not a whole lot,” she said.
She said she expects to see some modest adjustment in the numbers, since “we still have some homes that have not been totally denied building permits. And we still have homes with septic tanks lying on top of ground, and the health department hasn’t permitted them.
“There are still some questionable structures that are out there,” Skipper said.