Property tax analysis: Two-thirds of Palm Beach County homesteads face increase


Nearly two-thirds of Palm Beach County’s homesteaded property owners will pay more in property taxes next year, even if local governments hold their tax rates flat, Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits said Friday.

An analysis released this week by Nikolits’ office shows that 206,977 of the county’s 329,090 homesteaded properties will see their assessed values go up this year. The assessment increases will result in higher tax bills for those homeowners, unless the county, its municipalities and other taxing agencies lower their tax rates.

“Even if tax rates stayed the same, their taxes would go up,” Nikolits said.

Residents would see their tax bills grow even higher if local governments decide to raise their tax rates – as has been proposed by Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman.

Weisman’s budget proposal would increase the countywide tax rate by 3 cents, to $5.02 for every $1,000 of taxable value for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The tax rate includes a separate levy for voter-approved debt.

Under the proposal, the county would bring in $624.9 million next budget year, $25.3 million more than it collected this year.

Administrators say the county is expected to collect $68.9 million less in property tax revenue and debt payments than it did in 2007 at the height of the housing boom, a drop of 9.6 percent.

“Despite seven years of inflation, we are still assessing fewer taxes,” Weisman said. “We are still providing most of our services and some new services.”

Under the budget proposal, county administrators said more than half of the county’s homesteaded property owners would see the county portion of their tax bills rise by less than $16 next year. Weisman has attributed most of that increase to rising home values.

Preliminary estimates released last month by Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits show that the county’s tax base grew by 3.7 percent last year. Taxable values rose in 34 of the county’s 38 cities and towns. Only Belle Glade, Briny Breezes, Loxahatchee Groves and Palm Beach Shores saw values fall.

The final tax roll will be released by July 1, and Nikolits has said the tax base could grow by a half a percent more as his office refines the numbers.

The county, its cities and towns and other taxing authorities use Nikolits’ estimates to project how much money they can expect to receive from property taxes in the coming year and to set their tax rates and budgets.

Any last-minute increase in valuation could be used to lower the proposed tax rate or pay for additional programs and services, Weisman said.

At the $5.02 property tax rate, a homesteaded owner with a house valued at $250,000 in 2012 would pay about $1,026 in county property taxes and debt payments in the coming year, compared with $998 this year, an increase of 2.75 percent in county taxes. That assumes the assessed value of the home grew by 1.7 percent last year — the maximum allowed under state law.

Those who saw their home’s assessed value fall could pay less in property taxes next year, depending on the severity of the drop. Roughly 45,000 homesteaded property owners will see their assessed values fall this year, according to Nikolits’ analysis.

Even though the housing market is starting to recover, budget watchdogs have urged commissioners to hold the line on the county’s property tax rate.

Resident Shannon Armstrong, who spoke at Tuesday’s county budget workshop and urged commissioners to cut spending, said she had to take on a second job to cover her family’s expenses. Hiking residents’ tax bills will only make things more difficult for families, she said.

“Everything has gone up,” Armstrong said. “It affects the entire county. It affects how people spend money at the local businesses.”



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