Most Taxable Values Down - Except Black Communities?
LABELLE, FL. -- While Hendry Property Appraiser Phillip Pelletier has set taxable real estate values down this year compared to last year for most owners in the county, owners are still a bit confused over the numbers for their property taxes which seem to have increased. And owners in Hendry's black communities may have even more questions.
The appraiser's office is getting lots of calls since the 2009 Notice of proposed property taxes were mailed out this week to all Hendry property owners. Many question why the property tax appears to be increasing from last year despite a reduction in taxable value. And others may question why property in black neighborhoods is valued by the appraiser's office higher than lots in white neighborhoods in Port LaBelle.
Property taxes are under the jurisdiction of the various taxing levying agencies such as the school board, the county commissioners, hospital board, and fire and water districts. These boards decide on the taxes at meetings held around the county in September at which they will make final decisions on the tax . All meetings are open to the public, and to a large extent boards will decide to raise or lower taxes based on input from the public at each meeting. They have already had workshops with county department heads to discuss the needs and wants of each.
The property appraisers office however, does not set the tax rate but sets the taxable value of each parcel. Your taxes will depend on how high Pelletier's staff sets your property's worth. Port LaBelle property owners this year had a pleasant surprise tax-wise as Pelletier dropped values from $7980 to $5500 this year. Port LaBelle is Hendry county's largest subdivision with 30,000 acres of land, mostly vacant quarter acre lots.
However, owners of property in Hendry's predominantly black neighborhoods, Harlem in Clewiston, and the areas around Martin Luther King Boulevard in LaBelle have lots this year valued by Pelletier's office higher than Port LaBelle lots. Standard sized lots in those mostly lower income areas are typically smaller than middle class Port LaBelle lots. Port LaBelle lots are typically .20 acres while Harlem lots are .19 acres, or one-quarter acres in Port LaBelle compared to one-fifth acre in Harlem.
For example one-fith acre lots around Virginia Ave in Harlem this year are valued by Pelletier's office at around $6160 compared to a slightly larger one-quarter acre lot in Port LaBelle at $5500.
Why the disparity? An appraiser from the office says that property sales in Harlem support the higher values. Port LaBelle owners are not going to complain about their low values this year, even though they seem to be getting the benefit of lower taxes even on larger lots than Harlem's.