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Taxable property valuation numbers mulled

By Staff | Jun 1, 2017

Cape Coral property owners have much to be happy about as estimated property values city wide appear to have once again risen sharply over the past year.

But after several years of growth, the question is whether those numbers are sustainable or are they a harbinger of a possible correction down the road.

The city’s estimated property tax valuation rose an estimated 7.87 percent from last year, down only slightly from the 8.37 percent from the previous year and slightly better than the 7.75 from 2015, marking the fifth straight year of value increases.

The total taxable value in Cape Coral is estimated at $12.991 billion up from the $12.043 billion final figure.

City Manager John Szerlag said he was happy to see values continue to rise at a steady pace.

“It is nice to see property values in Cape Coral continue to increase at a sustainable pace, which is good news for our residents. While this increase is higher than what we estimated for budget planning, it always is better to be conservative with your revenue estimates rather than too big,” Szerlag said in statement. “I will be working with my budget staff to calibrate the proposed budget based on these tentative numbers.”

These numbers are great news for the city, though it’s still way too early to determine the impact it will have on the budget.

Councilmember Jessica Cosden said she was happy to see values go up, even if it was expected.

“I’m glad we were conservative in our estimates and it’s higher than we expected, which is great. We’re in a good time right now economically for Cape Coral,” Cosden said. “We won’t be scrambling trying to find money.”

The possibility of a correction has been on everyone’s minds, especially those in the real estate business.

Gloria Tate, of Raso Realty, has seen it in realty and as a former city council member. In both cases, it is good news.

“It’s a positive statement. It shows if you purchase here, you’re making a strong financial investment. We’ve had a steady progression as opposed to what we had in the past,” Tate said. “As a council member, it gives about $2.2 million extra to use in the budget for the general fund so we can fix our infrastructure.”

But what goes up eventually goes down. Tate said she has seen the possibility for a correction in 2018, but as long as the city doesn’t go crazy with new construction and prices, things should be OK.

“We’re very stable as a city. I don’t see us falling back like we did. I don’t ever see that happening again,” Tate said.

Al Giacalone of Rockstar Realty said sales have flattened out and average time on the market has gotten longer over the last several months, suggesting a market that may be cooling off, though not necessarily closing in on correction mode.

“Prices have been increasing so fast, it has to cool off. It’s also summer, which isn’t our peak time, and inventory is low,” Giacalone said. “People are saying we’re headed for another bubble. I don’t think so. It’s too soon, and seeing this flatten out, it’s already correcting itself.”

Councilmember Rana Erbrick also warned that just because values have gone up, that doesn’t mean they’ll stay up.

“You always have to look for indicators. We will probably see a correction in the next year or two. Hopefully, it won’t be like 2008,” Erbrick said, adding that she would like to see the city use the rollback rate for the next budget, seeing as increases are up so sharply.

Once again, all the taxing districts saw increases. Fort Myers estimated valuation increased 8.09 percent, Sanibel increased by 5.87 percent, Fort Myers Beach was up 4.84 percent, Bonita Springs increased 5.93 percent, and Estero went up 4.64 percent.

Overall, Lee County’s estimated overall taxable value went up 6.56 percent from last year’s $67.887 billion to $72.343 billion.

“This is the start of the season where we are required to notify all the taxing authorities what they can look forward to in property values,” said Kenneth Wilkinson, Lee County Property Appraiser. “It tells them what they can set for the millage.”

Wilkinson’s office has analyzed the market activity for all of 2016 and the numbers are based on what they were as of Jan. 1, 2017.

Once the preliminary numbers are set, Wilkinson will also give taxing authorities a rollback millage rate, what cities can lower the millage to so it can get the same money.

“It tells taxpayers who is raising taxes and by how much,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said all the numbers will likely change between now and July 1 when the preliminary numbers are set, which in recent years have trended upward. Those figures will be sent to Tallahassee for state approval. Wilkinson said he has never had an assessment declined by the state.

TRIM notices are mailed to property owners in August. Property owners will then have 25 days to resolve any disagreement in value with the property appraiser.