Did your property tax go up? There are reasons.

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Nov 22, 2022.

OUR POSITION: Don’t be surprised if your property taxes went up.

November isn’t just election time; it’s also property tax time. Property owners receive their bills and the clock to pay them starts ticking, with a shrinking discount available each month through March.

The word “shrinking” may apply to the discount but it doesn’t to the amount of taxes owed, as so many owners found out recently.

An in-depth discussion of property tax increases is beyond the scope of a single editorial, but we’ll try to provide some context.

Ad valorem — value-based — assessments reflect your property’s “taxable” value. That’s calculated every year by determining the “just” — market — value, subtracting “assessment limitations,” such as the Save Our Homes cap, and then deducting exemptions, such as homestead (which only applies to some residential properties).

Obviously, if the value of your property goes up, your taxable value will as well, unless the taxing authority lowers its tax rate to balance things out. But it doesn’t happen often because maintaining the rate brings in more money without levying a tax increase.

Property owners in Charlotte County, however, may escape with little or no hike in taxes because the County Commission recently voted to lower the millage rate. It could save money for you, depending on the increase in your home’s value.

Your tax bill includes levies from a number of taxing authorities. People in the city of Venice, for example, can see 11 entries on theirs, ranging from a few dollars owed to the West Coast Inland Navigation District to hundreds to be paid to Sarasota County, the city and the School Board.

A rising tide — higher property values — lifts all those boats even when they maintain their tax rate, and it all ends up as a bigger bill for you.

The Save Our Homes constitutional amendment in place since 1995 does provide some protection against large property tax increases, but the key word is “some.”

SOH applies the year after you qualify for the homestead exemption, which, in general, you get on property you own and use as your principal residence.

If SOH applies, the most the assessed value of your property can increase year over year is the lesser of 3% or the increase in the Consumer Price Index. For 2022 the CPI was 7%, so the maximum increase is 3%.

What SOH isn’t, however, is a cap on tax rates or your total bill, both of which can still go up, subject to other limits.

In addition, Sarasota County and Charlotte County voters have agreed to pay an extra 1 mill — $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value — to benefit local schools. Those taxes are nothing new, however and shouldn’t make a big difference over last year’s bill — again, depending on how much, if any, your home increased in value.

Sarasota County voters also approved a 0.25-mill tax funds the acquisition of environmentally sensitive land.

Take any of those things away and your bill would be smaller, but there would be a trade-off. In Venice, bond issues funded the new police station, the road renovations and the downtown beautification project.

Note, too, that while SOH has been made somewhat portable if you sell your home, it no longer exists for your buyer, who needs to establish homestead first unless he or she can carry over their SOH protection. The property will be reassessed at market value.

Also, if you make improvements or additions, those are initially assessed at market value, then are capped in future years.

We know this information won’t make a bigger tax bill easier to swallow, but we hope it at least helps explain it.