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Taxable property valuations up in North Fort Myers

June 6, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The two fire districts in North Fort Myers could see a few more dollars roll into their coffers next fiscal year.

Properties within the North Fort Myers and Bayshore fire districts each saw increases in taxable valuation, according to the preliminary numbers from the Lee County Property Appraiser's office Thursday.

Both agencies came in just under the county's overall increase of 5.33 percent. North Fort Myers had a 5.20 percent increase with an estimated $2.775 billion in taxable value, an increase by $137.2 million.

Last year, North saw an increase of 4.54 percent, which occurred just after the district sought and had approved a property tax increase to 3.5 mills through a referendum.

Fire Chief David Rice said he hadn't received the numbers as of Friday morning and couldn't specifically quantify the impact it will have on his district, but that an increase would have a positive impact.

"I think 5.2 percent is a great thing. There's growth in North Fort Myers, which has been slow in getting going, but we're starting to see improvement," Rice said. "It will definitely be an improvement."

At Bayshore, preliminary valuations were up 4.08 percent, with an estimated taxable value on property at $394.3 million, an increase of $15.4 million from one year ago.

Last year, Bayshore's valuation was up 4.80 percent over 2016. Unlike North Fort Myers, Bayshore has been unable to pass any tax increase, meaning it is still in recover mode following the recession where property values were cut almost in half.

"We're still way behind the eight-ball and the majority of our homes are homesteaded," said Bayshore Chief Larry Nisbet. "Whatever money we get will go toward returning full-time staffing without having to use grants."

Bayshore was using SAFER grants to fund personnel for several years. That grant disappeared in November, resulting in the loss of six full-time people, Nisbet said.

Bayshore can expect to see about $50,000 additional come into the district. Nisbet said operation costs are going up at the same pace as valuation.

"It will be good for us. We're always trying to cut costs, but we're treading water. We work hard to keep our ISO rating high and provide good customer service," Nisbet said. "We need to get back to the level we were at."

The taxable valuation percentage is 5.33 percent for all Lee County. Properties in unincorporated Lee, overall, experienced a 6.56 percent in 2016.

Property Appraiser Kenneth Wilkinson said this year's projected increase is one of the largest and continues a trend that is bringing 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 has been watching three issues that could have an impact on future values: flooding and seawall damage from Hurricane Irma and 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," Wilkinson said. "We're getting closer on (Irma). The public will help out when they call in."

The final valuation numbers will be released on or before July 1.

Wilkinson said those final numbers tend to be at, or a little better, than the preliminary ones.

Final figures are sent to Tallahassee for state approval.

Wilkinson said he has never had an assessment declined by the state. His office will also compute 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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