TRIM notices mailed
Property owners throughout Lee County should have received the annual TRIM notices in their mailboxes this week.
“They all went out on Monday,” said Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson. “We mailed more than 660,000 of them. That number goes up every year.”
TRIM notices (Truth In Millage) gives property owners a heads-up on what their property tax bills might be for 2017 come November. Information in the notices include the assessed value of the property and the amount they can expect to pay, minus any exemptions. It shows what the tax bill was for the previous year, what it could be if proposed changes are made, and what it could be if no change is made to the millage rate. The millage rate is set by city, county, school and fire districts along with any special assessments ordered by the taxing authorities.
“Now we wait for public input on them,” said Wilkinson. “No other government office works with such accountability. I really like the process because it is an opportunity for the public to question their property value, taxes and exemptions with us.”
Any property owner who thinks their assessed value is set too high has 25 calendar days from the time the notices are mailed to petition Wilkinson’s office in person, through the mail or over the phone. That 25-day period ends on Sept. 8 this year. Property owners will be paired with the analysts who did the actual assessment work on their property to reach a solution.
Property values overall in Cape Coral rose by 10 percent for 2017. City Manager John Szerlag has proposed a 0.25 cut to the city’s millage rate to 6.50 mils for the Fiscal Year 2018 operating budget. As City Council goes through the budget figures the millage rate could be reduced even more than Szerlag proposed, but is restricted from going higher than the not-to-exceed rate of 6.750 mils as recently established by council.
The 6.50 millage rate will increase the proposed general fund revenue to $205,872,108, an increase of $10.2 million over last year’s adopted budget. Ad valorem taxes will generate $82.2 million even with the 0.25 mil reduction in property tax revenue of $3.2 million. The Public Service Tax rate remains at 7 percent, generating $7.3 million in revenue. The Fire Service Assessment rate of recovery was rolled back from 64 percent to 59 percent and generates $24 million for city coffers, an increase of $1.5 million over last year.
Szerlag states that the reductions to the millage and Fire Service rates will save taxpayers $5.1 million on their tax bills, or about the same as using the assessor’s “rollback rate” of 6.344 mils.
The rollback rate is the rate that would generate about the same amount of revenue as the previous year while taking into consideration the increase to property values. New construction is not included in the rollback rate calculation by the assessor’s office.
The city’s two mandatory public hearings to finalize the millage rate and budget are Sept. 7 and Sept. 25. The 2018 operating budget goes into effect on Oct. 1.
“Taxing authorities are required to meet twice and those are on the TRIM notices,” said Wilkinson. “Authorities have to turn in their final mil rates to my office by Oct. 6. Then we just plug in the information and turn it over to the tax collector for billing.”
The Lee County Tax Collector mails the tax bills by Nov. 1.
Property owners can take advantage of a 4 percent discount for paying their tax bill in November. Discounts decrease by 1 percent each month for payments made in December, January and February. If not paid by the end of March, the property tax bill becomes delinquent.