LABELLE, FL. -- The majority of Hendry county property owners can expect an increase in their property taxes, in some cases a jump in taxes of nearly four times last years. Owners of Port LaBelle vacant lots can expect the average tax to rise from last year's $94 to about $360 for 2005 taxes. And that doesn't include the assessments due to the Barron Water Control District, Fire MSU, and the Port LaBelle Utility System which may add another $52 for a typical quarter acre vacant lot.
For the last year or so, mostly out-of -county buyers have been bidding up prices for Port LaBelle lots. Sales prices have soared from a few hundreds dollars to $60,000 for some recent sales. Accordingly, the Hendry property appraiser has increased all Port LaBelle vacant lot values from last year's $1500 to $3000 values to this years $11,000 to $12,500, a record breaking increase in one year. Most likely, taxes for 2006 will see another four-fold increase in property taxes for Port LaBelle vacant lots because the tax assessor values property as of January 1st each year. Port LaBelle is Hendry county's largest subdivision (See http://members.aol.com/browne/portlabelle.html ).
County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget September 13 with a final hearing on September 27 to finalize the millage rate for property owners. Even if they lower the rate from the current 9 mils to a lower rate, property owners will not see any taxes going down from last year. Because Hendry county real estate taxable values have increased nearly 10% from last year, that gives the county 10% more money to collect from property owners. As a political move, commissioners will promise to "lower the millage rate" hoping the public doesn't realize they still are paying more taxes than the previous year because their taxable property value has increased. Even homesteaded properties increased in taxable value 3%, the maximum allowed under Florida's "Save Our Homes" amendment. Non-homesteaded real estate increased in taxable value an average of nearly 10% from last year.