Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 | Tavares, FL | by Vance Jochim
If you live in Lake County, FL and own a house, commercial or investment property, your property taxes shown on your property "Trim" notice could go up 11-26% due to 1) appraisal values going up 4.2% or more and 2) the Lake County Board approving a budget and tax hike of 11-18% tomorrow afternoon at 5pm (Tuesday).
I refer to the County tax increase as the "Jimmie Tax" due to encouragement for it by the Lake County Board Chair, Jimmie Conner. Or you could call it the Conner, Cadwell, Sullivan & Parks tax after the four commissioners who voted for it. (Tim Sullivan since recanted a bit and helped Leslie Campione reduce the pending tax to about 11%.)
Below is an overview, our recommendations, and some links to reference documents.
If you don't think the tax rate increases listed on the TRIM notice are acceptable, you need to write, call and visit tax authority public hearings to get your point across. There will be other groups who WANT the spending increased, including employees, interest groups and officials and they definitely are calling, writing and attending public hearings.
Renters should be concerned also. If you do not own a home or office space, but rent it, your rent could be increased by the landlord to offset the tax increases.
Your actual, final tax is found by multiplying the taxable property valuation by the millage rate. If both go up, your tax goes up a corresponding amount.
1. Appraised property values: You can't do much about the new appraisal taxable values, which are capped at 1.5% increases for homesteaded homes, and are capped at 10% increases for commercial and investment properties like rental homes. The average valuation increase for the county is 4.2%, but your specific property tax could be effected by the cap or could be valued lower or much higher based upon market value analysis by the County Property Appraiser.
2. Tax millage rate changes: Several "tax authorities" are listed on your property "TRIM" notice, and each is required to have two public hearings to get public input. The Lake County Board earlier decided to set a maximum tax increase of 18+% which showed up on your trim notice. In addition, some cities raised their pending property tax up to 30+%, so people with property in a city get a double whammy tax increase.
This article covers the Lake County Board and their meetings and tax increases. The same idea applies to cities and other agencies listed on your TRIM notice.
Both figures should be found on your TRIM notice recently sent out by the County Property Appraiser.
Many people have been shocked by the total increase, especially if they live in a city also, which may also have increased millage rates significantly.
What to do if the property tax increases are unacceptable?
1. Attend the first of two public hearings for the Lake County property tax at 5pm tomorrow, Tuesday, at the Lake County Administration "round" building in Tavares at 315 West Main St. to give public input. Describe the effects of a tax increase on you and family or business. Get there early to get a seat, since many tax "spending" advocates will be there early. Read some of the references further down to identify alternative suggestions to raising taxes.
2. Plan to also attend and give public input at the SECOND public hearing on Sept. 23 at the same location and time. The final Lake County Board decision on property tax increases will be made at that meeting.
3. Starting NOW, call and email the Lake County Board at the contacts listed on THIS page (click name links in left column). Do it more than once. Only Leslie Campione has consistently refused to approve tax hikes, and she has a plan where spending could be covered with existing sources. Her plan is attached further down in the Reference section.
4. To keep updated on this and future Lake County spending, watchdog and tax issues, send a subscription request for our blog to FiscalRangers@comcast.net. Also visit our "FiscalRangers" Facebook page and like it.
5. Make a commitment to read the local news and follow actions by the County and City officials leading up to future tax hearings. The earlier you are active, the better.
1. Lake County Commissioner Leslie Campione wrote a plan of alternate actions to handle spending needs without a property tax increase. She includes a very good overview of the budget. It is here:
2. A CPA in South Lake County, Curt Binney, who is Chairman of the Lake County School District Audit Committee, also wrote a plan to reduce spending and handle spending without tax increases. It is here:
3. A real estate broker, Mike Levine, wrote a white paper focusing mostly on the proposed $3.6-million budget increase requested, and approved by 3 members of the Board. He cites a research white paper by another Sheriff on how to budget for law enforcement, and points out the Lake County Sherrif has many more deputies than the ratios cited in the article, thus the Sheriff's budget icnrease should be analyzed better by the Board. The original source article and Levine's analysis are here:
4. Theoretically, you can watch a video of the recent 4 hour budget workshop on August. 26, HERE, but the kludgy video system used by the County Government would not work TWICE when I tried it. It will start at the beginning, and the event bookmarks do not work. So scroll forward to 24 miinutes to watch the Powerpoint and four hour discussion on the budget, followed by public input and more. The Board finally removed several items from the budget, resulting in "only" a 11% property tax increase. However, those and other items can be added back in the Sept. 9 or 23rd meetings. The Powerpoint given at this meeting is linked on the page in #5 below.
5. The Lake County Board's Budget Manager, Steve Koontz, has a page listing several Powerpoints given at prior 2015 budget workshops HERE. You can download them.
6. The Sheriff's Budget increase request of $3.6-million would take him from $56-million to almost $60-million. I continue to state that there is no oversight or transparency on how efficient, effective and economical his current spending is.
- He does not share a detailed budget on his website for the current or past years like other agencies. The County Board just rubber stamps his requests without any detailed analysis like they do for their own budget.
- He has never requested a performance audit of any program or department, unlike the County Board and School District, which have had several such audits.
- He doesn't have public hearings on his budget, unlike the County Board or Schools.
- He has not published any verifiable spending ratios or benchmarks comparing his expenses by department or function to objectively defined peer Sheriff departments.
As a consequence, we don't know if his internal spending is really fat (see Mike Levine's letter above) and could be reduced to pay for requested wage increases.
If you think your tax hikes are unacceptable, take action like recommended above.
And don't forget to send a subscription request to FiscalRangers@comcast.net and LIKE our Facebook page.