By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
The Madison County Commission voted 3-2 at its Oct. 5 meeting to adopt the budget for the Fiscal Year 2011-2012 in the amount of $29,382,790, and set the millage rate at 9.5487 mills, up from last year’s millage rate of 9.39 mills.
In the simplest terms, “millage rate” means “tax rate,” as in the amount of taxes owed for every $1000 worth of taxable property. One mill is one dollar for every assessed $1000 of value of the property subject to tax.
In the above very simplified scenario based solely on county millage, a $100,000 home – not counting any exemptions or changes in appraisals – would have been taxed at $939 last year and the homeowner can expect to pay $954.87 this year.
There are also exemptions for which Florida residents can qualify; these are set amounts that are subtracted from the $100,000 value of the example property, reducing the amount that is subject to being taxed.
The best known and most widely used is the homestead exemption, but there are also exemptions for disabled veterans, senior citizens, the widowed, the wheelchair-disabled and the blind.
In the above example, if a homeowner has qualified for $50,000 worth of exemptions, and has filled out the proper paperwork with the property appraiser’s office and been approved for these exemptions, the taxable value of his home is now $50,000. If these exemptions were in place for the last two years, his tax bill would have been $469.50 last year, and he could expect to pay $477.43 this year based solely on county millage.
Still, it’s not that simple. If the appraised value of his property goes up or down from one year to the next, it changes the amount of value subject to taxation. The tax rate or millage rate could go up, but if his appraised property value declines enough, his bottom-line actual amount of tax – his “tax bill” – would actually go down.
So, will the bottom line tax bill for Madison residents go up or down?
According to Madison County Property Appraiser Leigh Barfield, for non-homesteaded properties, the land and property values have tended to go down slightly this year, but that’s just a tendency; it also depends on where in the county a piece of property is located, because there is more than one taxing authority in Madison County.
There are four main taxing authorities: The county, the city, the school board, and the Suwannee River Water Management District. Each have the power to impose their own millage rates, but each one (except for the county, which applies to everyone) may not apply to all taxpayers. For example, a resident would not pay city taxes unless he or she lived in one of the three incorporated municipal areas of Madison, Greenville, or Lee, and each one has a different millage rate.
There is also the fact that properties in more desirable locations (one example being waterfront properties) will command higher market prices – people will pay more them – so their appraised value will be higher than properties in less desirable locations. Their taxable value, minus any exemptions, will be higher than the same amount of land located in a swamp.
As for homesteaded properties, their appraised value, because of Save Our Homes, is rising one and a half percent this year. Save Our Homes is tied to the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, a measure in the overall change in prices of goods and services purchased by households, certified by the state of Florida and sent to the County Property Appraiser’s office during the first quarter of each year. Under Save Our Homes, appraisals for homesteaded properties can be raised three percent each year, or raised the same percentage as the CPI, whichever is lower. This year, the CPI went up one and one half percent, which is the lower of the two rates, so appraised property values on homesteaded properties will increase one and a half percent.
The reason homesteaded properties don’t go down in their assessments, at least not this year, is that their actual market value (unless the market is really, really bad and property values in general have plummeted dramatically) rises faster than the Save Our Homes maximum cap of three percent. This cap stays in place on that property until it is sold to a different owner. Then the assessed value reverts back up to the actual appraised market value at the time of the sale/purchase, and the Save Our Homes cap goes back on, starting at the higher value, for as long as the new property owner owns that property.
That is homesteaded properties as a category. Individual homesteaded property assessments may go down under certain circumstances, such as massive damage from fire, flood, storm, or other natural disasters.Other things affect value of property as well, especially non-homesteaded properties. In addition to the abovementioned disasters, the zoning (commercial residential, agricultural) may have changed, or the owner may have made substantial improvements to the property.
For fiscal year 2011-2012, the millage rate from just the county has increased from 9.39 mills to 9.5487 mills. If you own a homesteaded property in the county, your property appraisal has increased by 1.5 percent. Barring major property damage from natural disasters, or major decreases in millage rates from other taxing authorities, your overall property tax bill will most likely increase. If you have a non-homesteaded property, a variety of variables will ultimately determine your tax bill for fiscal year 2011-2012, and you will need to check into all of them. For more information about your property taxes, appraisals etc., contact the individual taxing authorities, the Madison County Tax Collector’s office, and the County Property Appraiser’s Office.