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Lee County property values continue an upward trend

By Staff | Jun 2, 2015

Property values in Lee County continue to rise as indicated by the estimated 2015 Tax Roll Values released Friday by Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson.

The appraiser’s preliminary figures for 2015 countywide are higher by 5.5 percent over last year’s final figures.

“For the last two or three years we have seen a positive overall increase in all areas of the county,” said Wilkinson. “We are in a positive market with about 60 percent cash sales. This kind of steady increase will benefit buyers and sellers, but I’m not as concerned as a few years ago when the bubble was not sustainable.”

The appraiser’s office has another month of work to do on the figures before it notifies the individual taxing authorities of the final estimate for 2015.

Cape Coral taxable property values are 6.01 percent higher than last year’s final assessment numbers. Wilkinson expects all preliminary value estimates to increase slightly by the end of June.

“The odds are, barring any errors, the final assessment figure will go up some,” Wilkinson said. “By the end of June we’ll have a better idea that we then send to Tallahassee for approval. Florida is a leader in this kind of stuff. There won’t be a huge increase, so I’m pleased to see it as far as the economy goes.”

Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag is pleased with the figures which are on target for the Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget the city is preparing over the next three months.

“I’m happy with the excellent market conditions,” said Szerlag. “It means property owners are getting a return on their investment. I anticipated a 6 percent increase for the next budget, so we’re right there.”

The increase also means that Szerlag’s budget proposal will be able to roll back the millage rate by .75 mils for 2016. That rollback was withdrawn for 2015 because the Fire Service Assessment funds held in escrow were not available because the city’s methodology was tied up in an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The court recently ruled in the city’s favor releasing the FSA funds. The .75 mil rollback was promised taxpayers by council three years ago when the FSA revenue source was passed.

The taxable values in Fort Myers are 7.7 percent higher and on Sanibel they are up 3.31 percent. For Fort Myers Beach the values are up 5.68 percent over last year and 7.34 percent for Bonita Springs. Estero is on the roll as a taxing authority for the first time after voting to become Southwest Florida’s newest city this year.

The Matlacha-Pine Island Fire District will see a 4.63 percent gain in revenue for 2015, North Fort Myers 4.05 percent, Sanibel 3.21 percent and Captiva 4.52 percent.

Wilkinson said the foreclosure rate remains a factor in the local market, but not what it was before the downturn. He said the inventory is being absorbed by the market very well.

“I’m happy to see us get into this upward trend,” said Wilkinson.

At the end of June, Wilkinson’s office will notify the county’s 91 taxing authorities of the final estimates, giving them time to work on their budgets and decide through public hearings on their millage rate requests.

By August, all taxing agencies in the county will have filed their millage rate request with the appraiser’s office which then calculates and sends out the annual TRIM notices containing the final tax values to all property owners.

After the TRIM notices arrive, property owners then have 25 days to contact the appraiser’s office to appeal their taxable value if they think it is too high.

Tallahassee must approve the 2015 tax roll values, but that’s never been a problem.

“In 35 years every tax roll I’ve sent them has been approved,” said Wilkinson.

Property values started to rise in the county overall two years ago while some communities still saw decreases. Most property in the county increased for 2013 with few exceptions. This year every city, town and taxing district in the county is seeing higher values.

“The last time we had an up market was January 2007 when the market was at its peak,” said Wilkinson.

The Lee County market lost half of its total value between 2007 and 2013 when the market started to turn around.

The annual process is complete when tax bills start arriving in property owners’ mailboxes in November.