Tax Notices are Here but What do They Really Tell Us?Sep 7th, 2011 | By Bea Weiss, Real Estate Consultant, Attorney | Category: Blog, Taxes
The deadline for filing a petition To contest the property value on your TRIM notice is September 9th.
Here’s an informative summary of and commentary about your property taxes:
Tax Notices are Here but What do They Really Tell Us?
The millage rate is the tax rate per $1,000 of value on your homestead. Getting to the total bill is not so simple.
First, to determine the taxes you owe, each government must set the tax rate by holding two public hearings. However, you will only find the first public hearing date on the TRIM notice.
Unless you live in the City of Bradenton or Longboat Key, you pay extra for fire services. West Manatee is the only fire department raising the assessment (a fire tax) by over 4%. It is odd that when trying to raise the Sheriff’s tax rate by this same amount, there was opposition; however, the fire department so far, has none. Maybe no one noticed, since it is on the back of the TRIM Notice and there is no notice of when they will meet to approve their budget.
The front of the notice lists last year’s tax rate; what this years’ rate will be and the tax rate if “NO budget changes are made.” However, the tax rate that determines if “NO budget changes are made,” is not what it means to the average taxpayer. “NO budget change” would be if last year’s total taxes were collected with a higher tax rate this year. Only government can define terms that do not mean what they are supposed to be.
Since property values are declining, the rate if “NO budget changes” are made is a higher rate than proposed by most of the government’s proposed budgets with the exception of the Cities of Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria and the School Board (the state raised your school property taxes, but they said they lowered them… shhhh, maybe they think they fooled you). The school tax “by State Law” is going up almost 5% or about $120 for my home, meaning more total taxes collected than last year.
Let’s start at the top of the TRIM Notice:
Taxable Value Determination:
The first part of the TRIM Notice is the Taxable Value Determination. This is what the tax rate is multiplied by, to get the taxes that you’re going to pay. Years ago this was easy, today not so much. Taxable value is not market value. Taxable value could be substantially less than your home’s market value if you are homesteading, since your taxable value is capped each year by a maximum of the CPI’s (Consumer Price Index) increase or 3% known as “Save Our Homes”.
The other component affecting taxable values are exemptions. The most common is a homestead exemption which used to be $25,000 for all homesteaded property owners.
- Every homesteaded property owner gets a $25,000 exemption.
- On the second $25,000 taxable value there is no bonus exemption.
- On the third $25,000 there is now a bonus exemption. However, the bonus exemption is not applied to the school part of your taxable value.
Most of us that are homesteaded will see $50,000 for exemptions for everything but public schools, which is $25,000. This is another tax break homesteaders received about two years ago and also reduced revenues to all governments except the school board. Remember, the state relies on the school and property tax to fund their state budget. They take money from counties and cities but yet they keep their tax collections protected. If you are not homesteaded nor have commercial property, you do not see any of these exemptions.
There are also other exemptions such as; Widows, Veterans Disability, Additional Homestead and Combat Veterans HX Discount (with some getting 90% exempted).
The first items are approved by the Manatee County Commission. The County rate is lower than last year. The Sheriff’s is higher, but the total of the two will not increase. Based on action of the commission, the Sheriff’s budget was protected from the same cuts as the county services to protect public safety. The County funds everything from Parks and Recreation to ambulances. The GO (General Obligation) Refunding is the debt payments for bonds. This tax rate goes up about 4% to cover the fixed payments since taxable values went down. This is not discretionary since the taxpayers voted for this debt. The unincorporated rate is set the same as last year at .6109 and is charged to only those not living in a city charging a tax rate (overall result tax decrease).
The School Board has to increase its tax rate “By State Law”. The State mandated this, so contrary to what was said from Tallahassee, the governor and legislature actually raised property taxes by raising the tax rates for schools. The tax rate is not set locally for this portion of the school boards tax rate. This money goes from our County to the State and we don’t get it all back. We only receive around 40% back and the rest goes to the State for funding other counties. So, your property taxes fund schools not even in our county!
The School Board has no power to reduce the tax rate set by the governor and legislature (by state law). They do approve the local board and capital outlay tax rates. The Manartee School Board has generated controversy around the desire to increase the capital outlay tax rate from 1.25 to 1.50. I am opposed to this increased tax rate for several reasons. The school board recently voted to eliminate the school impact fees. They already get a half cent sales tax for capital improvements from all of us, so I question the justification for even more of our tax dollars for capital improvements.
The Cities are all different. Bradenton is increasing its rate from 4.9452 to 5.2002; collecting the same taxes as last year (no tax break). Palmetto increases their rate from 4.6662 to 5.1185, collecting the same taxes as last year (no tax break). Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach tax rates are the same as last year’s. Holmes Beach has a tax decrease, but Bradenton Beach has a tax increase since the rate is higher than the rate if no budget changes were made. The City of Anna Maria is increasing its tax rate from 1.7882 to 2.05 which is more than any city and collecting more of your taxes than even last year; a substantial tax increase.
Not all cities provide the same services:
For example: the City of Bradenton operates their own fire department. Palmetto does not, but they have one of the highest tax rates of any city. The cities also have storm water utility fees and they add taxes to your electric bill. The County does not have any of these extra fees or taxes.
West Coast Inland Navigational District is another tax rate set by four county commissioners representing Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, and Manatee. This tax funds regional navigational projects and navigational related expenditures, ensuring the economy that we receive from our waterways is maintained (small tax decrease over the region).
Fire Tax rates are set by fire commissioners elected from each of the fire districts and all these tax rates are the same as last year. However, they also have an assessment that is listed on the back of the TRIM Notice and can be no higher than the State Legislature has approved. Only Westside Fire Department is increasing this assessment, but they are also the only fire department where the voters rejected a fire tax. Therefore, there is no fire tax and the overall fire cost should be less.
However, at the end of the day, the bottom line bill is what counts.
If you own your home and are homesteaded your tax bill is probably going up because of:
State mandating a tax increase for balancing the State school budget on the backs of Manatee County tax payers along with the other counties.
Westside Fire Department increased their fire assessment
The rate increase in the City of Anna Maria.
Total taxes collected are higher in Bradenton Beach
Your taxable rate is lower than the market rate. The tax breaks were realized when values went up so the taxable values increased by no more than 3%.
If you own non-homesteaded property such as commercial, investment or reside somewhere else, you should see a tax decrease unless the Property Appraiser increased your market value. The exceptions are if you live in the City of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, and/or in Westside Fire District.
The sad part of the TRIM Notice is that it just does not give you the real truth of where your taxes are going. Most mistakenly blame the county commissioners for the total bill, but as you can see, there are many other people including the governor that set the tax rates which ultimately affects the bottom line of your tax bill.
If you don’t agree with the value total on your TRIM Notice, you can always appeal the value determinations by filing a petition before September 9. You can also attend a Public Hearing to voice your concerns about your tax rates. The first of the many Public Hearings will be held at the Manatee County Commission Chambers, Wednesday, September 7 at 6 p.m., 1112 Manatee Avenue West.