For the fifth consecutive year county property values continued to climb, jumping 8.4 percent year over year.
Property Appraiser Mitch Burke submitted the 2018 preliminary tax roll to the Florida Department of Revenue last Thursday.
In effect, the 2018 property roll is a historical document, reflecting the market and property values as of Jan. 1 of this year, six months before the roll is released.
The tax roll is a snapshot of county conditions, which may or may not have changed in the ensuing six months.
But, Burke said, nearly every index is pointing up.
Burke said his estimated real and personal taxable property for the county rose to $1.738 billion, up from $1.6 billion a year ago.
Property values remain nearly $1 billion off the 2005-06 peak before what is known as the Great Recession.
But, over the past five years, the average annual increase in property values has been 6.56 percent, or just over $90 million per year.
“Those figures will be widely watched because it most directly impacts Gulf County government officials as they work to prepare a budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” Burke said.
The Board of County Commissioners has maintained a millage rate of 7.2442 since 2015.
A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 in taxable property value.
The property roll becomes the template against which government budgets will be crafted; for the county and cities the new fiscal year begins in October, for Gulf District Schools it began July 1.
“Hopefully, as a result of our healthy economy and steady increase in the taxable value, the public may see lower millage rates,” Burke said.
Each of the three Municipal Services Taxing Units established to fund beach restoration also realized increases in the values of property within each boundaries, which, in theory should bring down MSTU taxes.
The preliminary tax roll could also cause some adjustments in the tentative budget to be recommended for advertisement later this month by the Gulf County School Board.
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Those tentative budget numbers for the school district are based on an increase in the tax base of 6.45 percent; Burke’s preliminary tax roll pegs the increase at 7.9 percent on a taxable value of $1.949 billion.
Property values for school taxes are higher because fewer exemptions apply to taxes for public education.
The county’s two cities diverged significantly.
The city of Port St. Joe realized an increase of 8.3 percent in taxable property values, its biggest in years, while the city of Wewahitchka went the other direction, showing a 1.9 percent decrease in its tax base.
The Port St. Joe Fire Zone also saw the biggest increase in property values among the county’s fire districts, increasing by 10.2 percent.
The Tupelo Fire Zone realized an increase in property values of 4.3 percent and the Howard Creek Fire Zone 0.8 percent.
Property values in the Overstreet Fire Zone fell 1.4 percent.
Property values for the Northwest Florida Water Management District increased 8.4 percent.
Another bright spot in the local economy was new construction starts.
As of Jan. 1, new construction represented $43.59 million of the county’s taxable value, up 11.2 percent from 2017.
“We still continue to see new construction taking place in Gulf County, which is great news,” Burke said.
Further, Burke said properties are not typically on the market for a shorter period of time before selling and the county is seeing relatively fewer foreclosures and short-sales.
Across Florida, foreclosures and short-sales are down a combined 46.5 percent year over year.
“Gulf County seems to be experiencing an active and healthy market again,” Burke said.