Budget season is here: Home values are up. Some tax rates are down. What does it mean for you and your community?

For South Florida’s municipal budget writers, this summer brought happy news: Property values are up. Way up. That potentially means more money for cities, counties, schools districts and other government agencies to spend.

But what does it mean for you? It could mean a cut in your tax rate or more money for public services like police and parks. Or maybe even both.

As South Florida local governments and other taxing agencies wrap up their budgets for 2022-23, we explain the process and how any changes might affect your bill and your community.

Plus we’ll give you a sampling of budgets-in-progress from some South Florida cities, counties and school boards, with links to the full documents and how you could still have your voice heard before the final vote.

From budget to tax bill

Local government is in the last days of budget season. Their finance experts have been crafting budget proposals for months. In addition to earmarking money for new positions and programs, they proposed new tax rates. If you’re a homeowner, those proposed rates were in the tax estimate that you received in August.

Most government agencies held initial public hearings on their budgets the first two weeks of September – school districts, a little earlier – and will give final approval by the end of the month.

By law, each agency must approve a balanced budget, including its tax rate, by Oct. 1, the start of municipal government’s fiscal year. Property tax bills with the final tax rates set by each agency go out around Nov. 1.

Your tax bill is the total of property taxes charged by all the local government agencies that serve you. In South Florida, that typically includes your county, city, school district, water management district and other agencies with taxing authority, such as fire or hospital districts.

Taxes are based on two elements:

  • The tax rate, called a millage rate, which is the amount you are assessed for every $1,000 of your taxable property value. In Broward County, for example, the current millage rate is approximately $5.51 per $1,000 of taxable property value.
  • The taxable value of your property. This figure is not as simple as it sounds and it’s not the same as an estimate of what your house would sell for. It varies depending on whether you have a homestead exemption or several other exemptions, and whether any increase in the property’s value is subject to the 3% annual cap set by state law. Rental and commercial properties and some homes don’t have those advantages.

Because of those variables, a cut in tax rates doesn’t necessarily mean a cut in your tax bill. The increase in the taxable value of your property could be more than a lower tax rate will offset.

In cities that adopt the same tax rate that they have this year, your tax bill will almost certainly increase because property values have gone up so much.

This year, the total taxable value of all property in Miami-Dade County is up 12% over the previous year, driven by a construction boom and higher valuations of existing property, the Miami Herald reported. That means more revenue for local government. In Broward County, it’s up 10.7%.

Do taxing authorities cut tax rates and use the added revenue to make up for the cuts? Do they spend the money on hiring more employees or giving workers raises? To pay for new programs? To pay themselves more? That’s what elected officials and board members have been deciding this month. They are far from acting in unison.

In August, based on preliminary tax proposals submitted by all 35 of its cities, for example, the Miami-Dade property appraiser reported that 15 planned to lower their tax rates, three planned to raise it and the rest expected to leave it at the current rate.

By the time they approve their final budgets, cities can lower tax rates below those figures, but they can’t raise them without going through a long and complex process. So with rare exception, the total tax estimates that went out in August are the maximum you’ll be billed for. They could end up being lower.

With less than two weeks left in the fiscal year, here’s a snapshot of what some cities and other taxing agencies in South Florida are doing, broken down by county.

Broward County

Broward County’s proposed budget is $6.893 billion, up only 2.2% over this year.

The difference would have been significantly more if not for the first phase of the expansion of the convention center, which wrapped up this year. The capital improvements budget pumped $474.3 million more into the 2021-22 spending plan than it will in 2022-23, due mainly to that expansion. The next phase of expansion, including a headquarters hotel, was delayed due to the pandemic but is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

As tourism rebounds – and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport and Port Everglades return to more normal activity levels – the operating budget will increase by 14.3% overall. Together the two facilities account for an increase of more than $200 million.

Property tax revenues are projected to increase 10.7%. County staff office did not recommend a change in the millage rate of $5.67, which has been the same since 2017. Even if the rate doesn’t change though, the county’s share of tax bills on homesteaded properties will probably go up 3%, the limit set by the Save Our Homes law, according to the budget. Taxes on other properties will go up more than that.

The county calculated the impact on the average home, which this year was assessed at $201,806 and would have been charged $1,144 in the county’s share of property taxes. For 2022-23, if the property is homesteaded, the increase in its taxable value is capped at 3% by the Save Our Homes law, and the county tax would go up by $34.

Final approval of the budget is set for 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., in Fort Lauderdale.

WRJUZ5R3YFC6TN6WY2LX4SHJ3Y.jpg

Fort Lauderdale

For the 16th consecutive year, Fort Lauderdale is sticking to the same millage rate: $4.12 per $1,000 of taxable value. But property values in the city jumped 12.9% – an extra $5.6 billion – which means more tax bills will go up, even as the tax rate stays steady. About 30% of the increased value is due to new construction, the rest to the growing value of existing properties, the city says.

With that and other new revenue, the 2022-23 budget will be $981 million, a 9.3% increase over this year. The City Commission gave final approval Sept. 12.

The city’s top priorities are homelessness and housing affordability, infrastructure and resilience, public places and traffic and transportation.

Key items in the new budget include 16 more firefighters to staff a new rescue station, 22 more police employees, including 17 sworn officers, and four more code enforcement officers, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Broward County School District

The Broward County School Board approved a $5.3 billion budget on Sept. 13, a hefty 11.6% increase – especially in a district where enrollment dropped half a percent. The state’s portion of school funding is based on enrollment.

The board cut its property tax rate to $6.14 per $1,000 of taxable property value, 32 cents lower than the current year.

The budget includes raises for employees, more resources for mental health, guidance counselors and additional teachers to help accelerate learning.

Miami-Dade County

County commissioners on Sept. 8 gave preliminary approval to a $10 billion budget that includes a 1% cut in property tax rates. Although some commissioners pushed for a bigger tax cut, they didn’t get enough support to change the budget proposed by Mayor Danielle Levine Cava.

The county’s budget office had predicted only a 3% increase in property values, but tax revenues grew by 12% and brought in $165 million more than the county expected.

Although the increase in the taxable value of a home with a homestead exemption is capped at 3%, the jump in values is still high enough that it will be only partially offset by a 1% reduction in tax rates. A house valued at $200,000 last year would see county taxes increase about $40 this year, according to a July 14 analysis by the commission’s budget office.

Levine Cava’s budget, which relies in part on federal COVID relief funds, also includes more than $80 million for housing assistance, $50 million for eliminating septic systems, a $24 million boost for the county’s ongoing purchase of environmentally sensitive land, $8 million in retention bonuses, and hiring incentives for the under-staffed Correctional Department, the Miami Herald reported. It would spend about $1 billion more than what’s in the current budget.

At least one commissioner had said he expects to negotiate changes in the budget with Levine Cava before the final hearing and vote. These are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St. in Miami. Link to information on live-streaming the meeting.

City of Miami

Miami commissioners voted to lower the city’s property tax rate to $7.88 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, down from $7.99 last year – and the lowest rate since 1964, when the city began tracking its tax rates.

Under that rate, the owner of a median home valued at $192,916 would pay about $1,171 in property taxes. That marks about a $30 increase from the last budget year, assuming the owner qualified for the standard homestead exemption and the home’s assessed value increased by 3%, the maximum allowed by law this year for an owner-occupied home.

The tax rate is part of a $1.5 billion operating budget that also includes a $33.6 million increase to the pension programs for police and firefighters, most of which is tied to a 2018 legal settlement with labor unions. And it calls for a reorganization of the department devoted to preparing for the impacts of climate change.

The city also has a tentative $981.5 million capital budget that covers major expenditures for new roads, parks, buildings and the like.

The commission gave initial approval to the budget on Sept. 10 and will hold its final vote at 5 p.m. on Sept. 22 at City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr. in Miami.

Miami Beach

The tax rate in Miami Beach will stay at $6.05 for the next fiscal year, the City Commission decided in July – even though citywide property values jumped 11% and resort taxes reached record highs, according to City Manager Alina Hudak.

That decision and the jump in property values means taxes on primary residences will probably increase 3% – the upper limit – and potentially more for properties not subject to the Save Our Homes cap on how much taxable value can increase each year.

On Sept. 14 the commission gave preliminary approval to Hudak’s proposed budget of $801 million – the total of both the operating and capital budgets. That’s up 7.4% from this year, with the tax rate staying the same for the third year in a row. Highlights of the budget: A big increase in reserves and more spending on law enforcement, especially in South Beach, where the city has struggled to deal with rowdy crowds.

The preliminary budget includes money to hire 17 police officers and six code enforcement officers who were employed last year to patrol South Beach on a short-term basis, as well as to convert more than two dozen part-time park rangers to full-time employees, the Miami Herald reported.

A second hearing and vote on the budget are scheduled at 4 p.m. on Sept. 28 at City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach. Link to meeting via Zoom.

MIAMI-BEACH-SHOOTING

Daniel A. Varela / DVARELA@MIAMIHERALD.COM

/

The Miami Herald

A Miami Beach Police vehicle cuts through crowds near Ocean Drive during Spring Break in Miami Beach, Florida, on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

Hialeah

The city of Hialeah’s proposed budget for 2022-23 is $388.8 million, down almost $23 million from the current year. The drop is due primarily to a decrease in federal coronavirus relief money, according to Mayor Esteban Bovo, Jr.

The proposed millage rate is $6.30, the same as it has been since 2013-14, according to budget documents. Although the tax rate isn’t going up, most property tax bills will. The city said its overall property value grew 13.2% this year, due to new construction and higher value of existing buildings.

Bovo said the revitalization of the city’s aging infrastructure is one of his priorities. The $45.8 million capital improvements portion of the budget includes money for a variety of projects, including a new library branch, new buses and other vehicles, sewer lines, drainage improvements, road construction and replacement of obsolete water meters

The final budget hearing and vote will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 in the council chambers at 501 Palm Ave., Hialeah. You can attend the meeting via Zoom here.

Miami-Dade School District

School boards start their budget hearings a little sooner than municipalities do, so the Miami-Dade school board has already taken its final vote on the 2022-23 budget. The spending plan totals $7.29 billion, 3.6% more than this year.

The new millage rate is $6.59 per thousand dollars of taxable value, down about 42 cents from this year. The district says the new rate is its lowest millage rate in 40 years.

The budget includes more money for security personnel and equipment, counseling and mental health services for students, and a new minimum wage of $15 an hour for school district employees.

Monroe County

Monroe County budget writers say that if the County Commission adopts the millage rate cut they’ve recommended, the county will likely have the lowest property tax rate in the state. Again.

The Budget and Finance Office is recommending the county cut the millage rate by 11 cents to about $3.24. For a residential property with homestead exemptions, that reduction is enough to offset the increase in taxable value. For a home assessed at the average of $519,161 – that’s 3% more than last year’s average – the county portion of the homeowner’s tax bill would drop by about $8.

Total property values countywide grew 16.5% percent to $36.8 billion.

The proposed budget is $519.7 million. That’s 13.6% more than the current year, coming after two years in which the county budget dropped, partly due to a loss of revenues during the pandemic.

Adoption of the budget and millage rate will be at 5:05 p.m. on Sept. 21 in the commission chambers in the Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo. Details here.

Key West

City staff has proposed a $225.8 million budget, 8% more than the current year.

Total property values in the city increased 9.24% in the last year, almost all of it due to higher valuations on existing buildings. Only 3% is attributable to new construction, which is not surprising given tough building restrictions in the Keys.

Much of the increase will pay for employee costs. The police union has negotiated a 4% pay hike, while unions representing most other employees are still in negotiations. General employees will be eligible for merit raises of up to 2%.

Like many cities, Key West saw a drop in revenues early in the Covid pandemic and cut a number of staff positions. The proposed budget would add 16 positions, most of them in the police and fire departments.

The city is proposing to cut its millage rate by 6 cents, to $2.08

The final budget hearing and approval are scheduled for 5:05 p.m. on Sept. 22 in the commission chambers, 1300 White St., in Key West. You can attend the meeting via Zoom here.

Palm Beach County

The county is proposing to drop the tax rate after remaining at $4.78 per $1,000 of value for 11 consecutive years. The recommended new rate is 4.71.

Last year, the median value of a house was $365,000. Minus homestead exemptions, the tax bill would have been $1,517. For 2022-23, with a 3% increase in taxable value to $375,950 and the lower millage rate, the tax would be about $30 more, according to the county.

The tentative budget is $6.66 billion, an 11% increase over the previous year.

The final budget is set for a vote at 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the commission chambers at the government center, 301 N. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach.

West Palm Beach

For the first time in 15 years, the city is set to cut its property tax rate, which has held at $8.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, one of the highest in the county. The city has tentatively agreed to cut the rate by 1.8%, which amounts to about $2 million in lost revenue.

The cut would come after a year in which property values in the city rose 17.6%. The Palm Beach Post reported that the property tax bill for the owner of a $420,000 home, which is just below what the real estate-tracking site Zillow describes as the value of a typical home in West Palm Beach, would decrease by $59, to $3,477 from $3,536.

The $225.4 million budget restores 32.5 full-time equivalent jobs that were cut during the lean times of the pandemic and raises employee pay by 5%.

It is scheduled for a final hearing and adoption at 5 p.m. on Sept. 22 at City Hall, 401 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Lake Worth Beach

Lake Worth Beach is looking at a $13.4 million budget for next year, up 5.5% from this year. The city proposes to cut its millage rate by 20 cents to $4.39 per $1,000 of taxable value.

Although rates would fall, tax bills would go up slightly – the city estimates just over 1% – because of increases in property value.

The final budget is set for a vote at 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the commission chamber at City Hall, 7 N. Dixie Hwy, Lake Worth Beach. Here is the link to livestream the meeting.

Boca Raton

The commission approved an operating budget of $615 million after a final hearing on Sept. 19.

The general fund portion of the budget – that part that covers day-to-day expenses, not capital building projects or debt service – is $209 million, up 5.7% from the current year.

Total property values increased 14.47% this year. Most of the increase is from higher value of existing property; only about 15% of the increase is attributable to new construction.

The city had proposed to drop the millage rate to $3.68, a decrease of less than a tenth of a cent from this year, which means most tax bills will increase.

The bump would pay for increased salaries and benefits for police, firefighters and other municipal services.



Source link