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Beach property valuations climb with estimates

July 9, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A second round of preliminary tax roll value numbers are out, and Fort Myers Beach is indeed witnessing a spike in property values.

Like all Lee County communities, Fort Myers Beach's values have risen. From last year, the island has seen a 6.6 percent increase in total taxable value. That is 1.06 percent higher than the reported 5.54 percent from last month's initial projection.

Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson, who released the estimated 2014 Tax Roll Values on Friday, June 27, has noticed the development but was not amazed by the forecast. The County office is required to send the value numbers to Tallahassee for approval prior to July 1 of each year.

"Values are generally on the upswing, but there were really no surprises. The trend started developing last year and maybe even a little bit the year before," he said. "Personally, for the economy, I think it's a real good sign."

For the second consecutive year, this marks another rise in overall property values in Lee County, the first time that had occurred in six years. Not since 2007 had property values in Lee County showed an increase with almost all 91 taxing districts seeing its numbers in the black.

Compared to the economic rise in January 2007, Wilkinson believes the current market upswing is stronger. Market value has risen 8.63 percent on the Beach.

"This market is more based on cash sales. Lee County leads the country in percentage of cash buyers," he said. "The last time the market rang up was based on an equity market. This market is stronger because there are cash buyers that have skin in the game. It would be tougher to walk away.

"I would not like to see us go back to double digit inflation on values. It hurts too many people."

Now that the estimate numbers are out, Town officials will establish a millage rate, possibly using a roll-back millage, and send it back to the County appraiser's office. The process continues towards final tax values for 2014.

"We will apply that millage to the taxable value. Then we will extend that tax roll to the tax collector, and they will send out the bills," Wilkinson said. "Then next month, we shoot for Aug. 15, we will send to every individual property owner in the County what in our opinion is the value of their property based on Jan. 1 and the taxes they will pay based on the millage applied to those values (TRIM notice)."

Last year, on Fort Myers Beach, total taxable valuation increased 0.74 percent. The initial hike in this year's numbers, after Wilkinson released his preliminary valuation numbers for Lee County on May 30, was seen as a positive sign.

"I think it's fantastic," Beach Mayor Anita Cerceda said at the time. "Property values are up, people's net worth is up. It's all good."

Other County city/towns saw increases in the estimate tax roll values this time around. In Cape Coral, property taxable values had increased 5.5 percent over 2013 last month to now 8.63 percent with the latest numbers. Sanibel is seeing a 4.82 percent increase in its taxable values this year, while Fort Myers is at 9.2 percent and Bonita Springs stand at 8.3 percent.

Fire District increases range from a low of 2.27 percent for Upper Captiva to a high of 8.53 for Lehigh Acres. North Fort Myers stands at 4.82 percent above last year and Matlacha-Pine Island comes in at 3.62 percent.

While most properties in the county increased for 2013 with few exceptions, every city, town and taxing district this year in the county is seeing values rise anywhere from 2.2 percent to 9.2 percent at this point.

The Lee County market lost half of its total value from 2007 until the market started to turn last year, Wilkinson said.

The annual process is complete when tax bills start arriving in county mailboxes in November.

--Jim Linette contributed to this report.



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