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Lee County sees smaller value increase in 2018 estimate

June 6, 2018
Jessica Salmond, Charles Ballaro - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Town of Fort Myers Beach now has a baseline to start making budget decisions.

Lee County Property Appraiser Kenneth Wilkinson released the estimated tax role values Thursday.

The town's just value is projected to increase by 2.11 percent to $4.05 billion; assessed value is up by 3.42 percent to $3.63 billion, and total taxable is up by 3.53 percent to $3.43 billion. Total new construction just and taxable projected amounts were both $13.13 million.

That means if the town leaves its millage rate the same at .865 mills, it will still gather more money from the millage due to the increased values.

Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said he was pleased to see property values continuing to improve on the beach. He credits some of the growth to recent policy decisions made by the town, such as a pay-as-you-go capital asset renewal and replacement budget for town assets. He expects future values to increase, especially when Lee County completes the Estero Boulevard project.

"Also, the town has a low cost of local government while offering amenities that sets it apart from other cities such as a recreational campus, pool, cultural facilities and a marina in addition to providing efficient traditional municipal services," he said in an emaiil.

Property values in Lee County have an estimated increase of 5.33 percent this year. While it's still an increase, it's slightly less than the previous three years, said Kenneth Wilkinson, Lee County Property Appraiser.

The total taxable value estimate for the county is $77,983,332,000. New construction taxable value estimates sit at $1,550,639,499.

By comparison, the 2017 tax year's increase over 2016 was 6.56 percent.

"The market is a little softer, but this is just an estimate. We'll be working for the next 30 days, adjusting values, refining it," he said. "It's a good, solid market."

Wilkinson has been eyeing the market and its effects on property values for 40 years; this year, he's keeping a close watch on three issues than are impacting values that are changing things up.

The first two are county-wide: flooding and seawall damage from Hurricane Irma.

A week after the hurricane, Wilkinson's office was out making aerial shots to compare to previous years to look for physical damage. But what's not visible in photos is flooding damage. Wilkinson said his office needs the public to report damage so the value can be taken off the tax roll.

"When we send out the TRIM notice, they need to take a close look at it," he said. "If there was damage they never notified us about, they have a responsibility to contact us."

A more localized issue Wilkinson is also examining is the effect of the "sludge issue" in Fort Myers, and the properties affected by the dumping of chemical sludge on a city-owned property in a neighborhood in the 1950s.

"We haven't come to a conclusion on those issues yet," he said. "We're getting closer on (Irma). The public will help out when they call in."

Property appraiser Kenneth Wilkinson said this year's increase is still one of the largest and continues a trend to bring values back to where they were in 2007, just before the crash.

"I like where we're at. I don't have the concern I had in 2007 regarding a bubble. We still have a lot of cash sales and skin in the game instead of just buying and flipping," Wilkinson said. "It's a good, strong market, so I think we can just settle in and arrange for the next few years."

Wilkinson's office has until July 1 to finalize the numbers, but the estimates help the 91 taxing authorities in Lee County start setting their budgets.

"They have to report back to me what the millage is they want based on the new values in their jurisdiction, then it's a mathematical formula," Wilkinson said.

Those figures will be sent to Tallahassee for state approval. Wilkinson said he has never had an assessment declined by the state. They will also set the rollback mill rate for each district or municipality.

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.



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