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County property values drop; Sanibel down more than 10%

By Staff | Jun 1, 2009

According to preliminary numbers released last week by property appraiser Ken Wilkinson, Lee County taxpayers are looking at nearly a 25 percent drop in their property values.

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 last Friday.

Though percentages county wide were dire, two of the highest numbers were seen in Lehigh and Cape Coral.

The Lehigh Acres Fire District percentage was down 46.92 percent, while the Cape was down 33.48 percent.

Here on Sanibel, values dipped 10.19 percent. In terms of real numbers, the city’s final valuation numbers for 2008 were $4,898,244,150, while the 2009 estimate stands at $4,398,997,000, a difference of just under half a billion dollars.

“Last year, we saw a further reduction between the preliminary and final figures. But our council has a clear direction – we have to live within our means,” said Judie Zimomra, Sanibel City Manager. “Property taxes are our largest means of revenue, but by no means are they our only source of revenue.”

On Captiva, values dropped 6.62 percent, the second lowest change in Lee County (behind Boca Grande’s 2.82 percent tumble). Last year’s final taxable value of the island came in at $1,471,190,490, while this year’s estimate is $1,373,755,000, a loss of $97.4 million.

Countywide, the final valuation numbers for 2008, total taxable, 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.

Other areas with large losses:

City of Fort Myers – 23.41 percent (-$1,602,936,548)

City of Bonita Springs – 20.07 percent (-$2,037,917,924)

Town of Fort Myers Beach – 15.55 percent (-$532,175,910)

Also of note, the Upper Captiva Fire District saw values drop 10.63 percent, down from 2008’s $260,733,660 to 2009’s estimate of $233,013,000, a loss of $27.7 million.

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 by July 1.

(Executive Editor Jeff Lysiak contributed to this story.)