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North fire districts see uptick in property valuation

July 11, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Overall taxable property valuations in North Fort Myers are slighty higher than initially projected.

Overall valuation for properties within the Bayshore Fire District saw a 6.72 percent increase, while valuation within the North Fort Myers district saw an increase of 5.72 percent, up from the projected 5.20 percent a month ago.

That means North Fort Myers saw an increase in taxable valuation to $2.789 billion, an increase of $150 million from 2017.

Fire Chief David Rice said he expects that to add about $400,000 to their coffers, which will go toward continuing to replace capital needs and maybe filling a firefighter and/or administration position or two.

"Everything is positive for us. Next year we're looking for vehicle replacement and we have a big radio project we have to do. I also want to build our reserves," Rice said. "We took care of our engines and capital equipment but our vehicle replacement schedule still needs work."

North had an increase of 4.54 percent in 2017, which occurred just after the district sought and had approved a property tax increase to 3.5 mills through a referendum.

For Bayshore, the preliminary increase was significantly higher than the 4.08 percent estimated increase from a month ago. Its preliminary valuation is $404.3 million, an increase of $25.4 million over last year.

Bayshore's taxable valuation was up 4.80 percent in 2017. Unlike North Fort Myers, Bayshore has been unable to pass any tax increase, meaning it is still in recovery mode following the recession which saw property values cut almost in half.

With the new figures, at the current tax rate, Fire Chief Larry Nisbet can expect to see an increase of about $75,000 come into the district, which should be enough to fund one full-time firefighter.

Bayshore has been 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 last month.

Nisbet was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Lee County's tax valuation went up 6.12 percent, an increase from the estimate of 5.33 percent last month, but slightly lower than the 6.56 percent increase of 2017.

The final figures of all taxing districts will now be sent to Tallahassee for final approval. 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.

Wilkinson said that while there were a lot of pluses for property owners, there were also a lot of minuses because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and this could still affect the numbers.

"I would caution all taxing authorities not to spend it all because we will continue to have reductions. There are things they should be conscious of," Wilkinson said. "They shouldn't have to panic. The law is the law. We work with numbers, and I can't consider the effect it has on budgets. That's their problem."

Wilkinson said he expects the TRIM process to be much busier than normal post Irma, with more reductions expected with interior flood damage as well as seawalls.

"We expect the most since 2004 with (Hurricane) Charley. The adjustments for storm damage if it hasn't been repaired by last Jan. 1 will be recognized," Wilkinson said. "The big difference will be interior flood damage, which you can't see with the aerial or on the street."



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