The Flagler County Commission this evening will take the final vote on the 2011-12 budget after a public hearing. The commission will again hear a summary of the budget and an outline of next year’s tax rate.
Even though the tax rate is the highest in 12 years, Flagler County remains the 15th-lowest taxed county among Florida’s 67 counties, according to new figures released by the Florida Association of Counties. Flagler County is managing the feat even though, from 2010 to 2011, it experienced the second-steepest drop in taxable property values–a 14.28 percent drop, just barely behind Brevard’s 14.31 percent.
- Flagler County Tentatively Adopts Highest Tax Rate in 12 Years at Subdued Hearing
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- Flagler Property Tax Bills Set to Drop Markedly As School Board Keeps 2012 Levy Flat
Flagler’s and Brevard’s drops were significantly higher than the Florida average drop of of 4.6 percent, and place the two counties among national leaders in lost value. For Flagler, it’s the exact reversal of the previous decade, when the county was a national leader in growth rates and among the state leaders in property value increases.
Flagler’s tax rate for 2011-12 will be $6.7814 per $1,000 in taxable value, up from $6.055. That means a $150,000 house with a $50,000 exemption will pay $678 in county taxes. The rate includes levies for environmentally sensitive lands and for the financing of bonds that paid for the county administration building and its sister palace across the parking lot, the new county courthouse. Those extra levies don’t figure in the association of counties’ tabulations of strictly county tax rates.
It’s going by those calculations that Flagler ranks 15th lowest, though many counties have similar additional levies on their books. Last year, Flagler was the 13th-lowest taxed county.
The fact is rarely part of the discussion when county commissioners are under fire over tax rates, as they have been over the past two years, particularly from tea party representatives. This year’s budget battles, however, have been relatively muted, aside from the commission’s first of nine budget hearings back in June, when some tea party members promised commissioners they’d be voted out if they raised taxes. According to state law, while the county did raise the tax rate, it did not actually raise taxes, because the revenue generated by the new rate will be lower than the revenue generated in 2011, resulting in an overall drop in taxes collected county-wide. The majority of county residents will actually see a substantial tax cut in their bills because the school board’s tax rate will stay level despite the double-digit drop in valuations, resulting in a smaller school bite. The school board accounts for the largest chunk of taxes on all residents and businesses’ bills.
The lowest-taxed county in the state is Okaloosa, at $3.37 per $1,000, followed by Walton and Sarasota, who are also under $4. Seventeen counties have tax rates of between $8 and $9 per $1,000. Five counties have tax rates between $9 and $10. And eight counties have tax rates higher than $10 per $1,000, including the two highest-taxed among them: Glades ($11.09) and Dixie ($13).
The average county tax rate in the state in 2012 will be $7.52 per $1,000–again, considerably higher than Flagler’s. Surprisingly, it’s not a substantial increase over 2011, when it was $7.40, an increase of just 11.7 cents per $1,000 in valuation, an increase of just 1.58 percent overall, which means that most counties have chosen not to make up the loss in revenue caused by the drop in valuations, and take the route of budget cuts instead. Local governments have been shedding jobs in Florida, contributing to the state’s persistently high unemployment rate.
Ten counties in the state saw virtually little to no loss in valuations, including four that actually saw property values, although Madison’s and Suwanee’s increases were statistically insignificant. In Miami-Dade, values rose 2.14 percent, and in Sumter, the state leader, values rose 6.91 percent.
The full, county-by-county breakdown of property taxes over the past two years and property value losses (or gains) is below.
Florida Tax Rates, 2011 and 2012, and Taxable Values
|County||FY 2011 Millage Rate||FY 2012 Millage Rate||Taxable value, 2011-2012, +/-%|