homepage logo

Cape Coral estimated tax rolls up once again

By Staff | Jun 5, 2019

The long winning streak for property values in Cape Coral will continue for another year. It also shows a sign that the sharp increases of the past few years may be leveling off.

The Lee County Property Appraiser’s Office released its 2018 tax roll values Thursday and showed that the city of Cape Coral saw its rolls increase by an estimated 6.48 percent, the eighth straight year of increases.

“We are pleased to see the residents’ property values growing at a sustainable pace. Staff is in the process of developing my proposed FY20 budget, which will be presented to City Council in July. Now we have a clearer picture of revenues as we determine our priorities,” City Manager John Szerlag said via e-mail.

Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson said there were no surprises, in that while the market has slowed down a little bit and despite last year’s algae emergency, growth remains strong.

“The tax authorities should be happy. The market is pretty steady and strong, which is a good thing for the economy,” Wilkinson said. “It didn’t like it when it was roaring and when we lost 49 percent of value in three years.”

Councilmember Jennifer Nelson said the numbers suggest that the Cape Coral economy remains strong.

“I’m pleased to see that the housing market has stayed so solid. This should allow us to keep the millage rate the same or even decrease it. It would be advantageous to our residents,” Nelson said.

Taxable property values are estimated at $15.227 billion, up from the $14.3 billion of 2017 but still short of the $21.7 billion in valuations in 2007, before the market wiped out 55 percent of property values. By 2010, city property was valued at $8.5 billion.

During Thursday’s Cape Coral Construction Industry Association meeting, president Marty McClain said the number were promising, but it only brought the valuations halfway to where values were before the 2008 market crash, a message regarding how hard the area was hit and how it became Ground Zero in the housing bust.

Wilkinson said in many areas, property values are closer to what they were 12 years ago, and believes in the next year or two could be back to where they were then.

The number is lower than the 8.49 percent increase from 2017 and the 2016 increase of 9.57 percent, a sign that the real estate market may be cooling slightly, especially in the preferred areas.

Wilkinson said he sees a leveling off in value increases, which he said is also a good thing.

“We can anticipate everything that happens in the next few years being positive,” Wilkinson said.

“Just because it’s slowing down, doesn’t mean it’s going to crash. I’m hopeful we can maintain this for the next few years,” Nelson said. “Things are stabilizing and the numbers are indicative of that.”

Sanibel’s estimated valuation was almost flat, increasing just 0.59 percent. Fort Myers Beach was only 2.54 percent, and Estero’s estimated increase was just 1.12 percent.

Wilkinson said last year’s blue-green algae may have had something to do with low numbers, but also the smaller taxable base, which tend to skew numbers more wildly.

“The smaller areas like Sanibel have smaller bases, so percentages will be higher. It doesn’t surprise me that the beach areas are slowing down,” Wilkinson said.

Overall, Lee County saw its valuations increase by 5.36 percent, with a total taxable value of $82.679 billion, up $4.207 billion from 2017.

The 6.48 percent increase doesn’t mean the city will get that increase in revenue. Many homes fall under the Save Our Homes cap for homesteaded properties, which means tax increases can only go up according to the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 3 percent, whichever is lower.

On July 1, the preliminary tax rolls are released. In recent years, the preliminary numbers have come in higher than the estimates, Wilkinson said.

The final figures of all taxing districts will then be sent to Tallahassee for final approval. 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.

Wilkinson said he has never had a tax roll value rejected since he first started on the job in 1980.