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Cape homeowners shocked by TRIM notices

By Staff | Aug 29, 2009

Some Cape Coral homeowners were shocked when they opened their TRIM notices this week, finding their property values down but their taxes considerably higher.
One, 11-year resident Jim Tanner, said he was a “little confused” when he opened his notice.
The market value of Tanner’s home dropped by 56 percent, while the assessed value came down 50 percent, but he’s concerned the notice doesn’t tell the whole story.
Depending on whether or not the Cape Coral City Council approves a millage rate increase of nearly 85 percent, Tanner, like all homeowners in the city, will have no idea what the “truth” of their particular millage will be.
“I’m completely baffled why the values came down as much as they did,” Tanner said. “I haven’t gotten the tax bill yet, so I haven’t really seen what’s going to happen … but my value is going down while my taxes are staying the same. The TRIM notice doesn’t tell the whole story.”
Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson said the notices, which stand for Truth in Millage, have had fewer challenges this year than in previous years.
He said in his opinion Lee County citizens have had more issues with the taxes, not the assessed values.
He added that, for once, the county might truly have truth in millage.
“We have 82 taxing authorities in Lee County, the most in Florida,” Wilkinson said. “They were more than happy to leave the millage the same when property values were going crazy, which gave the perception they didn’t raise taxes because they didn’t raise the millage. (With the economy) why are they not willing to leave the millage alone and give people a break?”
Wilkinson is urging people who do disagree with their notices to contact his office before filing a petition.
For people who have issues with their taxes, Wilkinson advised taking part in civic meeting, such as budget hearings, to voice concerns.
“Our responsibility is to the value not to the taxes,” he said. “We have to appraise the property, not the people.”
School board member Bob Chilmonik, a Cape resident, will be paying twice as much in property tax next year if the City Council approves hiking the millage.
Chilmonik paid $543.42 in 2008 to the city. This year’ he’ll pay $1,007.01 if the millage is approved.
Chilmonik, who also owns a property in Fort Myers, will be paying less to that city if the millage rate is approved. In 2008, Chilmonik paid $809.46. He’ll pay $604.36 if the millage reduction is in fact approved.
“It appears most of the increases are in the Cape,” Chilmonik said.
As a member of the school board, Chilmonik said taxing authorities have to be careful not to push people, who are barely hanging on, over the edge.
Some of the millage increases, while only minor, could mean a lot to those families staring over the precipice.
“In Lee County we have some of the poorest families in Florida,” he said. “Ten dollars could mean the difference between a hot meal.”