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7.13 percent increase:

By Staff | Jul 3, 2013

The increase in overall property valuations in Cape Coral is higher than initially expected.

Cape Coral’s tax roll valuation surged 7.13 percent to $9.538 billion, a more than $634 million increase from 2012, one of the highest increases of any of the 92 taxing districts in Lee County.

Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson reported in June a preliminary estimate of 5.67 percent, which still was the biggest jump in all Lee County after a 3.83 percent jump in 2012.

Countywide, valuations were up 2.41 percent, also slightly higher than the 2 percent initially projected in June.

The latest report will be sent to Tallahassee for approval.

“It’s not a surprise. The higher number over a month showed we had another month’s work to do,” Wilkinson said.

“It’s good news to the people who spend it,” Wilkinson added. “It may not be good news if they don’t change the millage then taxes go up.”

The report issued last Friday provides the numbers upon which the county, its various municipalities and taxing district base their budgetary revenue numbers

It was certainly good news to Cape Coral Councilmember Rana Erbrick, who now sees the possibility of perhaps tweaking the numbers more to help the city get to its targe of $20 million in additional revenue, primarily for capital improvement projects.

“It’s happy dance time, although we now have to be concerned that prices are rising too quickly,” Erbrick said. “Adjustments can be made to the ad valorem. You don’t want to mess around with the numbers for the fire assessment.”

According to the city’s preliminarily approved “financial diversification” plan, the property tax rate is expected to fall at least one mill, and maybe more if the city collects its anticipated $8 million from a new 7 percent public service tax and another $20.7 million from a propsed fire assessment.

“With the numbers coming in much higher, the easy component to manipulate is the ad valorem,” Erbrick said. “It should get it to that 1.25 to 1.5 range. I’m looking at more than 1 mill.”

Erbrick said the one mill estimate was based on a property value increase of 4 percent.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Mayor John Sullivan, who said the valuation numbers are proof that the diversification plan isn’t necessary after all.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t wait until the numbers came out before we started slapping on a new tax,” Sullivan said of the new 7 percent levy on electric bills. “He (Wilkinson) said he thought it would be better than he originally thought and he was right. It was a conservative estimate, and if I was in his shoes I’d be conservative, too, because you could get burned.”

In other areas, Fort Myer’s taxable valuation is up 3.68 percent, Sanibel’s taxable valuations went up 1.05 percent and Fort Myers Beach is up 2.22 percent.

In the fire districts, Lehigh Acre’s valuation is right behind the Cape’s in terms of an increase at an even 7 percent, North Fort Myers is up 2.15 percent, Boca Grande is up 1.01 percent and Matlacha/Pine Island is up 2.25 percent.