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Lee County property values plummet

By Staff | May 30, 2009

Lee County taxpayers are looking at nearly a 25 percent drop in their property values, according to preliminary numbers released on Friday by property appraiser Ken Wilkinson.
Wilkinson and his staff will work on the numbers for a month before the final figures are due on July 1. He said he doesn’t expect much change between the preliminary and final numbers.
“It could be a slight difference, but in our history we’ve never seen more than a percent or two difference,” Wilkinson said.
Though percentages county wide were dire, two of the highest numbers were in Lehigh and Cape Coral.
The Lehigh Acres Fire District percentage was down 46.92 percent, while the Cape was down 33.48 percent.
In terms of real numbers, the final valuation numbers for 2008, total taxable, countywide were $88,318,947,323 for schools and $84,528,427,863 for other taxing entities. The 2009 estimate is $66,841,329,000 and $63,539,895,000 respectively, a decease of $21,477,618,323 and $20,988,532,863 in taxable valuation countywide.
The Cape is looking at a decrease of $5,255,959,250 in total taxable valuation while Lehigh is looking at a $2,983,390,980 decrease in taxable valuation.
According to Mayor Jim Burch, city staff predicted a 35 percent drop, so the preliminary figure did little to surprise him.
“It’s a huge hit, but we have not exceeded what we’ve expected,” Burch said. “It’s pretty close to what the financial director guestimated … so now we have the number to dial in and see what we’re working with.”
Councilmember Tim Day said that he feels there has been increased activity in the existing housing inventory, especially in waterfront properties.
He also believes values have bottomed out, and signs of recovery will be visible as early as next year.
“With my whole heart I believe this, I’m not just trying to put a good spin on it,” Day said.
Day called the property values an “anomaly”, but, like Burch, was not at all surprised once the values were announced. Though he does see recovery on the horizon he warned there are still some tough times ahead for the Cape, and city council.
“The challenge for the council now will be getting through the next 12 months without catastrophic changes,” Day added.
At 92, Lee County has the most taxing authorities of all of Florida’s 67 counties.
Wilkinson said for the first time in his 28-year career as property appraiser he expects to see “truth in millage.”
“If they (taxing authorities) left the millage the same this year on average you would see a 25 percent tax decrease,” he said. “For the first time in our history the onus on taxing will be where it belongs.”
Final tax roll numbers are due July 1.