I will bet that most residents, especially those who are new to the area or those wanting to "up or down grade" their existing residences don't know that the Pinellas County millage rate is one of the highest in the state. Compounded by the escalating property values, taxes on residential properties are increasing at an alarming rate in spite of the Homestead Act. In fact, according to a recent Times article, in 2006, Pinellas County took in over $2 Billion (yes that's with a "B") more in property tax revenues than they did last year. What the participating entities will do with the "incremental funds" is certainly a question for the voters to investigate.
One negative byproduct of the recent "value boom" is that real estate taxes are now usurping a family's personal right to alter their life style. Think about it. Say I have lived in my property for several years and have seen the value of my home go up sharply. Yet, if I want to either upgrade or downgrade my residence, I am generally challenged to do either because of the tax burden I will likely face on almost any new residence I might purchase (once it is reassessed). Even though I realize a gain on the sale of my home, I might well end up spending a major portion of this to pay ongoing real estate taxes at my new home or condo. And, if I am a retiree with fixed/limited annual income, the "right to change my life style" (i.e. to sell my home, buy a less expensive one and put the balance in an income producing account) is even more severely restricted.
Property taxes essentially consist of two components; assessed value and millage rate. (Value x Millage =Tax) How, then, can the tax burden be made less so for the residents of this county? The property appraisers office using a comparative property value approach determines the assessed value of property in Pinellas County. This is a free market approach and cannot be manipulated. However the mileage rate is determined by elected and appointed Government and agency officials and in light of the higher assessed values and correspondingly higher annual revenues, the MILLAGE RATE CAN AND SHOULD BE REDUCED.
So how do reasonable people cause action to be taken? First, we must all realize who participates in taking from the tax well created by the $23.24/$1000 millage rate we all currently suffer. The answer is that there are nine entities and they are as listed below.
|Pinellas County Planning Council||.0218|
|School - State Law||5.1910|
|School - Local Board||3.1990|
|City of Clearwater||5.7530|
|SW Florida Water Management||.4220|
|Juvenile Welfare Board||.8117|
|TOTAL||$ 23.2372/Thousand assessed value|
As you will quickly note, the schools demand nearly $8.50, the County takes nearly $7.00, and nearly $6.00 of the eventual tax pool goes to the City. Together, theses three account for nearly 90% of the total with the remaining 10% or $1.74 spread among the other four participating agencies or authorities. Keep in mind, even if the millage rate holds steady, assessed values go up at least three percent for those with Homestead protection and a lot higher for those without it (e.g. second homes) or for those who purchase new residences (assessments on re-sales can be estimated at 90% of the purchase price). The second action to take is to bring one voice to the attention of our elected officials. The key phrase here is "elected officials". They are in their positions because we either elected them or elected the person who appointed them. To do this, we must contact them as well as attend their respective budget meetings. Regarding the latter, I have listed the dates, times and locations of those entities with upcoming sessions below.
There are few if any reasons for above inflation increases in these budgets going forward. All of them should zero base budget each year to test the validity and ongoing need for the various programs and costs they sponsor. A real estate tax pool rising at several times inflation only serves to entice certain public officials to spend what's in the kitty. It is time to both spend consciously and "give back" some of the gains to the citizens who make the golden pool possible. One such and immediate measure is to REDUCE THE MILLAGE RATE. Join this chorus and make it happen by writing, calling and meeting with the appropriate officials.
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