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Palm Coast, Flagler and School Tax Bills To Increase About 5% as County and District Set Tentative Rates

| July 22, 2014

Contrary to popular misconceptions, the local school board has virtually no power in setting local tax rates, and other local governments are limited in how much they can cut taxes, if they're expected to keep providing services people want. (© FlaglerLive)

Contrary to popular misconceptions, the local school board has virtually no power in setting local tax rates, and other local governments are limited in how much they can cut taxes, if they’re expected to keep providing services people want. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast set its tentative tax rate for 2015 two weeks ago. The Flagler County Commission set its rate this afternoon. The Flagler County School Board will do so in late afternoon. Combined, and along with the small tax rate imposed by the St. Johns River Water Management District, which virtually all property owners in Flagler pay, the four rates add up to the tax bill some 75 percent of residents pay.

And together, those tax four rates would fall slightly, though barely, next year, to $20.5926 per $1,000 in taxable value, from $20.6138 currently. For a $175,000 house with a homestead tax exemption of $50,000, that works out to a tax bill of $2,574, a saving of $2 from the current rate.

That’s assuming that the value of your property remained flat. In some cases, it has. But property values have begun to creep up just a little: overall in the county, values went up 5.46 percent, including a 5.57 percent increase in Palm Coast, 5 percent in the county, 6.48 percent in Flagler Beach, 6.76 percent in Beverly Beach, 1 percent increase in Bunnell, and a decrease of 0.56 percent in Marineland.

For most property owners, in other words, values have increased by about 5 percent.

According to Florida law, if the tax rate stays the same but average property values increase, that works out to a tax increase. So in essence property owners on average are likely to pay somewhere in the range of 5 percent more in property taxes this year than last, since none of the local governments are adopting the so-called rolled-back rate—the tax rate that would collect the same amount next year as the government collected this year. For the rolled-back rate to apply, the local governments would have had to discount the property value increases, but also take a slight cut in revenue.

With severe needs accumulating during the lean years of the Great Recession and since, local governments feel they cannot afford keeping revenue flat, as that would deepen the deficit of needs they’re facing, from infrastructure improvements to expansions and upgrades of such things as fire and police services. In Flagler County, the fire department plans on adding three firefighters and building a new fire station on the west side.

Still, the bottom line this coming year will be a relatively small, when it comes to tax bills, especially when inflation is taken into account: if you live in palm Coast and your tax bill was in the $2,500 range this year, you may end up paying about $125 more next year, if your property value increased by about 5 percent, and you include the taxes from Palm Coast, the county, the school board and the water management district. There’s also the East Flagler Mosquito Control tax and the Florida Inland Navigation District tax. Those combine for an additional $35 on most homes, an amount not expected to change next year. All those figures are for annual tax bills.

And those tentative tax rates may yet fall lower: Palm Coast and the county set their tentative rates at the maximum possible level. They can—and often do—still chip away at their respective rates between now and the September tax hearings when the final rates are adopted.

On July 10, Palm Coast set its maximum rate at $4.2705 per $1,000, the same rate in effect this year. Tuesday afternoon, the County Commission set its rate at $8.5597 per $1,000 in taxable value. That rate includes the $0.5847 rate that voters approved in order to fund the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands program. The county’s rate is barely different than the existing rate of 8.5753.

Later this afternoon, the Flagler County School Board is expected to approve an overall tax rate of $7.446 per $1,000, itself barely different than the existing rate of $7.442. The school board’s rate remains significantly lower than the $8.031 rate of 2012. (See a full breakdown of school taxes, as presented to the School Board this afternoon, here.)

To call those the school board’s rates, however, is a misnomer. The local school board has no power in setting its own taxes. Those are set by the Legislature. The board attempted to add a 50-cent-per-$1,000 property levy last summer, for its “critical operating needs,” but voters decisively rejected that initiative. That left three separate tax categories of taxes that the state sets: the “required local effort” rate of $5.1980 per $1,000, the “discretionary” rate of $0.748, and the capital outlay (or construction and repairs) rate of $1.5 per $1,000.

In total, the proposed rate is expected to raise $53.1 million for the school board, $10.7 million of it devoted to construction and repairs. The total tax rate exceeds the rolled-back rate by 5.45 percent.

The calculations—again, set by the state, not the local school board—assume a student population decreasing 0.6 percent this year, to 12,444. The district ended last year with a population of 12,513, a 0.7 percent decrease–and the fourth decrease in a row. The district’s population peaked at 12,975 in 2010. But today’s figure masks another loss: the 1,000 students who are counted in the district’s figures, but who are actually attending one of the district’s two charter schools. Charter schools are private schools run with public money, channeled through the district.

9 Responses for “Palm Coast, Flagler and School Tax Bills To Increase About 5% as County and District Set Tentative Rates”

  1. Tom C says:

    The School Board and the County Commission are incapable of effectively controlling costs.

    No matter how lean or how prosperous the economic time are, these two bodies always need MORE and MORE.

    Our property taxes are ridiculously high.

    Go back to the budget drawing boards and earn your pay!

    • Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

      Tom C…In a non-confrontational manner, I’d like to ask for your input on just where we can cut services and other expenses. This year , like years in the past , the County has had numerous State of Florida mandates handed down to us, at the local level to assume responsibility for. The Commissioners have phone numbers, email addresses, and are available before and after budget meetings to hear your input. I will certainly listen to any and all your comments.. When there is a County meeting, we have 2 periods dedicated for resident input. Give me some specifics and I’ll respond.

      The proposed millage rate , at this time is just that… “proposed” and there still are discussions to follow, that could make it lower..

      Our next meeting is tonight at the Government Services Building in Bunnell…5PM

      Hope to see or hear from you..

  2. Binkey says:

    Our taxes are not high

  3. gmath55 says:

    Our taxes aren’t high. Try living up north where I use to live.

    • James says:

      We need to be spending more on education. It should be criminal that teachers don’t make a living wage. Of course, overpaid tenured teachers do us harm in the opposite direction. We need to pay our teachers at a minimum the national average. We are failing our children when 40% of our students don’t graduate high school and over 50% of minority students don’t. To become leaders in international K-12 education, we can learn from Finland and South Korea. We need to pay our teachers a respectable wage (to attract top talent from say med school or law school), value our teachers greatly in society, and do away with standardized testing. Having an educated work force, increases the standard of living our citizens and attracts direct investments. In essence, the cost of the education is paid for by the future productivity gains received by the beneficiaries. The tax rate is inconsequential, particularly when the cost is spread over a twenty or thirty year bond.

  4. Rich says:

    They are like pigs at the trough when it comes to taxes. A rate of $20 per thousand is way too high for what local governments provide. How about a cut some time of 5 percent.

  5. Jim P says:

    I understand proposed. Proposed is used as a guide line and gets residence ready for the coming tax increase to reduce the noise when it is. With the highest unemployment in the state and stagnant wages for workers, people are watching every penny. With home insurances more than doubling over the past few years, utilities increasing bit by bit, people are trying to keep up and having a hard time. I know I am. Everything going up except my pay.

    Taxes are low compared to up north but wages are also higher.

    I propose that all local and county government put the tax rate at the level that they get the same amount of money as they did this year. I will be getting the same pay rate as I did 3 years ago and have to work within that, so can they.

    As far as schools, the leaders in Tallahassee need to change. Implementing rules that place huge financial burden on counties. They should only create rules that they are willing to pay for 100%.

  6. Rich says:

    I don’t care what the taxes are up north. I live here. The taxes are too high for the services received. There is too much duplication and not much cooperation among the taxing entities.

  7. confidential says:

    Stop wasting our hard earned taxes buying, overpriced derelict real estate or utility plants form the elite developers or building more entrance and roads infrastructure for Town Center or buying overpriced programs and computers in the schools and even planning to engage the Corps of Engineers for millions we do not have to re sand our county beaches, after all our shore lines are also responsibility of the state and fed too, then why to foot the bill with local taxpayers only? We have at least 2 managers, county and city that want to really stamp their resumes with big projects under their tenure and force funded by us. Meanwhile our services to be funded by our taxes are all cut short. Latest looks like tough we pay drainage in our PC water bills, “city decided” is not its responsibility to maintain our swells and our culvers free of sediment that clogs our drainage. Maybe that is the reason that community center on the corner of PC Parkway and Club House Drive was flooded with the last rains?
    Then what is next we will have to pay extra for our roads to be repaved? Use our reserves for what are intended and not for Town Center. We pay enough taxes and are wasted.
    How often are the rest of Palm Coast main roads right of ways mowed, versus the perfect mow and landscape on Belle Terre, Old Kings South and all the other surrounding access to Town Center?
    They are supposed to be in some schedule, but favoritism for TC access scheduling is obvious and has to stop! We should al be treated and serviced in the same terms!

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