Manatee County's tax rates to change little next year, with property values rising

Manatee County's property values continue to rise as millage rates remain about the same

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 29, 2013 

MANATEE -- While taxpayers in the cities of Bradenton, Palmetto and Longboat Key will pay a little more in property taxes due to millage increases next year, tax rates across Manatee County are similar to this year's rates -- or will even decline in some cases.

But the county's property values have risen by 3.8 percent, even though the millage rate remains about the same.

The Herald examined a spreadsheet listing most of the taxing authorities' final millage rates, as assembled by the Manatee County Property Appraiser's office. All of the taxing authorities must submit their final millage rates to the property appraiser by Oct. 9.

With an economy that is slowly reviving from a serious recession, governmental officials contend they have been careful in their decisions about raising millage rates, which determine how much in taxes their residents will pay.

After voters in June turned down a proposed 1/2-cent sales tax increase to fund health care programs, Manatee County commissioners retained the same countywide millage rate as last year, 6.2993.

The county's $530 million budget was up 14.2 percent over last year's, with the increase due mainly to more money for capital improvements.

Those living in unincorporated areas will pay a rate of 6.9102; one mill equals $1 of taxes for every $1,000 of taxable property, or $6.91 per $1,000 worth of property value.

A typical resident with a single-family home valued at $150,000, after exemptions, will pay about $1,057 in taxes.

However, because property values have risen by 3.8 percent, the county will reap about $5.7 million more than last year, according to Jim Seuffert, the county director of financial management.

The Manatee County School Board OK'd a millage rate slightly less than last year's, despite a $7.5 million deficit from the previous fiscal year.

The board this month approved a millage rate of 7.57 mills, a decrease of 0.22 percent from last year, as part of its final $568 million budget.

The budget is $12.7 million more than the 2012-13 budget.

"Since the county and the school board make up the majority of the taxes levied, it is noteworthy they remained the same, or slightly under the prior year," said Greg Pennington, director of administrative services for the Manatee County Property Appraiser's Office.

Bradenton residents' millage rates are slated to rise from 5.4356 to 5.8976. That translates to about $46 more per year for a home valued at $150,000 with exemptions, according to Mayor Wayne Poston.

"A couple things we're doing is: We're putting in a program to pave streets, trying to get that done, we have some pension issues, several things," said Poston.

"I haven't had a single complaint."

City property values had only gone up about 1 percent, which also affected the city's budget decisions, he said.

"People are pretty happy with what they're getting done in the city; if they thought we weren't spending their money wisely, we would have heard from them," Poston said.

In Longboat Key, millage rates are slated to jump from 1.8872 to 2.0760.

The increase in millage will generate an additional $859,852, said Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock.

Taxes for a homeowner with property worth $250,000, including exemptions, will go up $47.10, from $485.90 to $533 next year, Bullock said.

"Longboat Key has an unfunded pension liability about twice its operating budget on a proportional basis; it's a very large unfunded liability, when compared with other communities," he said.

"We're freezing our pension plans for fire department and general employees, there will be no new benefits after Oct. 1," he added.

"That stops future liabilities from growing -- now we must concentrate on paying off the unfunded liability," he said.

The town expects to add a little over $600,000 to its pension reserve fund from the millage increase, he said.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District adopted a millage rate of 0.3818 mills, 2.8 percent lower than the current fiscal year, officials said.

"This millage rate is 0.5 percent below the rolled-back millage rate, and will result in a $2.9 million reduction in ad valorem taxes for the district's taxpayers," said spokeswoman Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

For the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the water district tax would drop to $38.18 a year, down from last year by $1.10.

The city of Palmetto is proposing a millage rate increase from 5.2171 in 2013 to 5.7171 in 2014 to help balance its $22,643,083 budget, officials said. Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said a homeowner with property with a taxable value of $100,000 and exemptions will pay $50 more per year.

The millage rate increase will help the city buy much-needed equipment for parks and City Hall; fund public safety items previously cut; pay for rising pension costs and maintain services to residents, she said.

"I'm appreciative the community apparently supported the final budget, and we appreciate their acknowledging we've tried to be very prudent with their dollars," Bryant said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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