Nine of Palm Beach County’s 38 cities and towns and six countywide or regional taxing authorities lowered their property tax rates this year, according to data released by the property appraiser’s office Friday.
Six other municipalities increased their property tax rates, and 21 cities and towns will keep their rates flat for the 2013-14 budget year, which began Oct. 1, according to the property appraiser’s office.
Two municipalities — Cloud Lake and Glen Ridge — have continued not to collect property taxes.
Palm Beach County will also hold its general property tax rate, its fire-rescue tax rate and its library tax rate at last year’s levels.
The tax rates are used to calculate property owners’ tax bills, which will be mailed out by the tax collector’s office next month.
Local governments held public hearings on the tax rates last month, but attendance was light in several major cities and towns. After years of contentious budget battles and escalating tax bills, many residents are pleased with this year’s levies, Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits said Friday.
The number of people challenging their property tax bills plummeted by nearly 24 percent this year, the county clerk and comptroller’s office has said. About 4,900 property owners have filed petitions with the county’s Value Adjustment Board by the Sept. 16 deadline, down from 6,390 last year, the clerk’s office said.
Nikolits attributed the drop in petition filings to the rebounding housing market. Many property owners may have expected their parcel’s assessed value to jump more than it actually did, he said.
“I think they were expecting to see much higher values, based on what they were reading from the Realtors,” Nikolits said. “When they got their (preliminary tax) notices, they looked at their bottom line. No taxing agency was going crazy. There was nothing significant to be concerned about.”
The county’s tax base increased by 4.2 percent in 2012, according to Nikolits’ office.
But home prices rose at a much faster clip, according to the Florida Realtors. The median sale price in Palm Beach County rose by 9.8 percent in 2012 — climbing to $212,000 in 2012 from $193,000 in 2011, according to a market report released by the Florida Realtors.
Nikolits said the Realtors’ analysis considers large increases, including foreclosed properties that are sold at auction, fixed up and resold at a much higher price. Nikolits said his office concentrates on the market values of those properties, not the jump in sales prices.
“The Realtors, what they are giving you is year over year, and month over month,” Nikolits said. “We have to confirm and verify every sale that we use.”
Taxable values in Palm Beach County and 25 of its cities and towns dropped by a fraction of a percent from what Nikolits projected in July, according to revised numbers that his office sent to the state Friday, the deadline for property appraisers to submit their county’s 2013 values.
But the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority saw an unusual increase, Nikolits said. Its tax base grew by 5.8 percent between Nikolits’ July 1 and Oct. 11 estimates.
Nikolits attributed the jump to a 2003 change in the authority’s boundaries, about which he said his office was never notified Nikolits said about 200 properties were added to the DDA in 2003, but the properties were never included on the authority’s tax roll.
“They made a revision to their boundaries back in 2003 and never sent that information to us,” Nikolits said. “We have nothing in the file to indicate that they sent it to us.”
Authority officials could not be reached for comment Friday.