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Properties in Bayshore, North, see an increase in overall property valuation

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jul 12, 2021

Property values in both the North Fort Myers and Bayshore fire districts have pretty much returned to the levels they reached in 2007, before the Great Recession.

That could mean more in the way of property tax revenue for the two districts.

However, both chiefs agree that while property values have risen, so has inflation, which means that it costs more for the agencies to buy the things they need.

In other words, neither can say they are all the way back in terms of departmental funding though they are getting close.

Bayshore’s still-preliminary taxable property valuation, which was released July 1, has increased 7.92 percent, up from the first estimated 6.29 percent last month and the 4.94 percent seen last year. The preliminary taxable valuation for all properties within the district is at $494,353,130, up from the $458,066,646 it was last year.

The North Fort Myers Fire & Rescue District saw a 6.72 percent increase, an increase from the 4.66 percent last month and the 4.22 percent from a year ago. Preliminary taxable valuation rose to $3,289,732,876, an increase from the $3,082,478,622 in 2020.

At the current rate of taxation, new Bayshore Chief Doug Underwood said this should result in an increase in the budget of more $108,000, which is huge because the district is getting off the SAFER grants they have used to fund three firefighters annually.

“Our shared cost for the employees we had from the grant was reduced by about $70,000, so that still gives us $38,000,” Underwood said. “We’re right back where we were 15 years ago and seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

Underwood said the district isn’t out of that tunnel because prices have increased for many needs the department has, such as insurance, benefits and equipment.

“We only have three paid guys per shift and in 2006 we had four, so because of the cost of insurance, salaries and other expenses we have no control over, we can’t add personnel,” Underwood said. “We applied for another grant for a fourth person to bring us back and hopefully in three years we’ll be back at four per shift.”

In North Fort Myers, the focus has been putting money in reserves that were depleted during the recession. More important, they said, they can take better care of their residents.

“We’ll be able to get our reserves back to where they need to be and it’s always a positive thing when we have more to work with,” North Chief Ronald Beecroft said. “Our population has been increasing, so with that we will have the means to use it and expand to keep up with the growth.”

Beecroft said he was also concerned with inflation, as well as the possibility of another housing downturn or other economic blow.

“A lot of the signs are the same as they were in 2007 with the cost of new homes,” Beecroft said. “We’ve seen increases for the past decade and this one is very much needed.”

TRIM — Truth in Millage — notices are mailed to property owners in August. Property owners then have 25 days to resolve any disagreement in valuation with the property appraiser.

Taxing agencies that garner revenue from property tax valuations base their budgets on taxable valuation. An increase in valuations gives agencies some options.

They can leave their tax rate the same and still get additional revenue; they can opt for the “rollback rate,” and reduce the tax rate to bring in the same amount of revenue; they can reduce the rate further and cut taxes; or they can increase the tax rate, depending on the funding deemed necessary to pay for operations.