Property taxes could go down this year

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Values up, so commission rolls ‘em back

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Property values are up a smidgen this year, so the Levy County Commission will be giving property owners a break, tentatively dropping the millage from last year’s 8.3307 to 8.2741 mils.

The unanimous action by the commissioners came at the end of a budget workshop on Tuesday, said County Coordinator Fred Moody. Property taxes are just one part of the budget picture with grants, fees, penalties and interest on due bills and assessments also being collected. The preliminary county budget is estimated to have $61,953,536 in revenue in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. 

Levy County Property Appraiser Oz Barker told the Chiefland Rotary Club a few weeks ago that his office was estimating county property values would be up incrementally – $19 million – based on the preliminary tax roll of county property value is $1,582,078,088.

The new 2014-15 fiscal year millage is what is called the “rollback” rate, which allows a government to capture about the same revenue from one year to the next. Under the current budget, the commission has estimated it will collect $12,947,479 in property taxes at 8.3307 mils. One mil is equal to $1 in tax on $1,000 and the new rate would be $8.3307 per $1,000 of taxable value. 

Under the new rate for the budget year that starts Oct. 1, the 8.2741 will being in an estimated $13,020,000 or a $72,521 increase in revenue.

It could be negligible to some homeowners. The average home value in Levy County is $66,558, according to the Levy County Property Appraiser’s Office. With the $50,000 in homestead exemptions, the tax bill on the remaining $16,558 would be $137.94 this year and $137 next year. 

For Sheila Rees and the county’s budget mavens, the news is good because the county – for the third year in a row – 

does not have to try balancing the budget guessing how much property tax money will be needed for emergency medical services.

In a county where 45 percent of the residential property owners don’t pay any property tax due to the number of homestead, widow and widower, veteran, disabled veteran, low income senior and other exemptions, the commission found itself at the end of the budget year having to put more Ågmoney in the potÅh to cover EMS costs. 

That meant the 55 percent of residential property owners and commercial property owners were footing the bills for fire and EMS services. 

The county changed strategy and decided to support fire and EMS services through assessments that are levied on every property in the county. EMS assessments also apply to municipal properties as the cities and towns do not operate EMS. But it was still not enough and in 2012 the commission raised the EMS and fire assessments to make the Levy County Department of Public Safety self-supporting.

They have tentatively set it at that level for the coming year. 

The fire assessment is expected to bring in $1,950,000 in revenue. Residential property owners pay a flat $90 per parcel annually, while commercial property is assessed 27 cents per square foot, industrial/warehouse at 4 cents per square foot, institutional at 30 cents per square foot, agriculture that is less than 160 acres at $7 per parcel and agriculture that is more than 160 acres at 2 cents per acre. 

The emergency medical services (ambulance) is expected to bring in $3,025,813 in operating revenue. Residential property owners pay a flat $119 per parcel annually, while commercial property is assessed at 7 cents per square foot, industrial/warehouse at 1 cent per square foot and institutional at 19 cents per square foot.

The solid waste assessment is estimated to bring in $511,150. It is a flat rate assessment of $25 for the closure, long term care, monitoring and associated services for the landfill. 

The roadway maintenance assessments vary by the subdivision or service unit.