Slight tax-bill increases in store for city and county residents

Residents in Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County can expect to see little change in their property tax bills. Despite tax rates that have been trimmed a smidgen, increasing property values offset whatever relief they might have seen.

Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County government leaders finalized their property tax rates and set their budgets as the last few days of their respective fiscal calendars ticked down.

For property owners in the City of Port St. Lucie, their city portion of the tax bill will increase by about 6 percent, given an increase in property values of about 11 percent.

However, city leaders noted they cut a dime per $1,000 taxable value from their tax rate. (The tax rate is also referred to as the millage rate.)

According to Finance Director Jeff Snyder, that 10-cent decrease will result in $1 million less being collected.

The fiscal year 2018-19 millage rate will be 5.0807 – or essentially $5.08 per $1,000 taxable value. The city also continues to assess a voter-approved tax rate for the Crosstown Parkway extension debt – 1.2193 – bringing the overall property tax rate to 6.3000. The city’s general fund budget is $410.5 million and accounts for 11 new hires in various departments, including the Port St. Lucie Police, Utilities and Building departments.

The City Council unanimously and without discussion approved both the millage rate and budget as recommended. It was the second of two required presentations and votes. The first was held on Sept. 10.

Late last week, the St. Lucie County Commission also approved with minimal discussion and debate its own tax rate and budget.

As with the City of Port St. Lucie, the county’s finance team recommended a slight decrease to its millage rate – but, given an approximate 8 percent increase in property values, residents can still expect to pay more.

The $546 million budget for the county is nearly $11 million less than last year’s, but still $6 million more than the draft budget crafted earlier this year. Unfunded state mandates account for about $16 million in the budget, according to county officials.

The St. Lucie County Commission and its finance team don’t expect the budget to survive the November General Election. On the ballot are two measures that could affect the budget by as much as $18 million.

The half-cent sales tax, if approved, could help the county bring in more than $9 million annually over the next decade. Those funds would be used to offset the cost of the County’s infrastructure projects.

The proposed third homestead exemption – which needs the approval of 60 percent of the state’s voters in order to pass – could further cap how much of a home’s value can be taxed. If approved, the county could expect to see fewer property tax dollars enter the coffers.

CLARIFICATION

Last week’s edition of St. Lucie Voice carried a budget-related story titled “Slight tax-bill increases in store for city and county residents.”

The article noted that property owners in the City of Port St. Lucie would see the city portion of their tax bill increase by about 6 percent, given an increase in property values of about 11 percent.

While true, the statement is not entirely accurate as it does not take into account properties protected by homestead exemptions.

Homestead exemptions cap the taxable value increase. In this case, those with homesteaded properties can expect to see a 3 percent increase in their tax bill.

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