The board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. heard a presentation Monday concerning the impacts on property values and tax rolls in just one county hit hard by Hurricane Michael.
It was sobering news.
Gulf County Property Appraiser Mitch Burke provided the information his office has gleaned so far in their work to craft a property roll, with a long way to go before the tentative roll is certified in July.
“We still have a great deal of work to do,” Burke said. “We are very early in our appraisal.”
But if the numbers in July look anything like the numbers Burke presented Monday, local governments will be in for serious sticker-shock come budget time this summer.
As just one example, at the high end of Burke’s current calculations, the Board of County Commissioners would see a decrease in revenue of nearly $4 million next year alone, based on current millage rates.
Triumph staff is reviewing a pre-application from three Gulf County taxing authorities, the BOCC, Gulf District Schools and the city of Port St. Joe, seeking over $21 million in grant funding to abate a loss of tax revenue over the next three years.
At least one other county is seeking tax abatement grant dollars from Triumph due the storm.
After the hurricane, the Triumph board communicated with all eight counties to which it is disbursing BP fine dollars that if they wished to change or eliminate submitted projects, the board was keen to work with them.
“We are very sensitive to the devastation and costs from the storm,” said Don Gaetz, Triumph board chair. “This is monumental challenge for leadership.”
Burke said his office and staff must look at each of the county’s roughly 19,000 parcels and has received some help from the office of the St. John’s County Property Appraiser and his staff.
As of this week, Burke’s office had completed assessment of 32 percent of the county’s parcels.
His job is complicated, Burke noted, by the lack of sales since Hurricane Michael, with just 77 sales since the storm compared to some 800 total for the year.
Assessing comparable recent sales, indicating market conditions, is a significant component of the work the property appraiser must do each year.
“The lack of sales since the storm will make it difficult,” Burke said.
In addition, due to the extent of beach erosion his staff has found along the Cape and peninsula, which accounts for some 40 percent of the county’s tax base, many land values in coastal areas will have to be looked at again, Burke said.
He expressed a concern that in many cases, a home has been structurally compromised, a factor the property appraiser may not become aware of until the home does not survive the next storm.
Burke provided broad-strokes for the current numbers.
The county’s property value last year was $1.739 billion, $918 million of that value found in land.
Burke’s office is currently estimating a loss of 10-15 percent, or $91 million to $137.8 million, in land values.
Another $602 million in value was derived last year from primary structures and Burke is currently estimating a drop of 30-40 percent in that component, equal to $180 million to $240 million.
In the area of so-called extras, accessory buildings, pole barns, etc, Burke said the estimated decrease in value would be 50-60 percent.
The drop in the value of personal property was estimated at 10-20 percent.
And in classified agricultural lands, Burke noted a recent report from a Florida Senate committee detailing the devastation to the timber industry from Michael.
The statewide loss in commodities, forestry, cattle, peanuts, is estimated at $1.475 billion, Burke said, citing the report and noted that in the case of forestry, the impact will be felt for at least four years as forests must be replanted and grow.
In the county, the decrease in value of agriculture lands is currently estimated at 50 percent, Burke said.
“We will probably see a reduction in (agriculture) for at least the next few years,” Burke said.
In all, county property values are currently estimated to fall by 30-40 percent, $347 million to $521 million, Burke said.
“Your task is monumental,” said Triumph board member Jason Shoaf. “I will be very anxious to learn the final numbers in July.”