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Cape’s property values jump more than 7%

Despite Ian, overall valuation continues climb

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jun 6, 2023

While overall property valuation didn’t blow up into the double digits in 2022, the estimated property valuations throughout Lee County again increased overall, with Cape Coral again at the top of the podium.

But Hurricane Ian — one of the the most devastating storms in Florida history — still did make for a wild year for valuations, as coastal communities that were hit the hardest by the near Category 5 storm, like Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach, saw their numbers drop heavily.

Cape Coral saw its estimated overall just valuation increase 7.28 percent — a far cry from the 38.90 percent it was in 2021 — but still significant. Total just property valuations increased from $39,449,125,436 to $42,320,031,000, an increase of $2,870,904,564, according to the Lee County Property Appraiser’s preliminary report.

In terms of taxable valuation, overall property valuation increased from $22,545,069,623 to $25,164,778,000, an increase of $2,219,708,377, an 11.62 percent increase, which topped all taxing areas in Lee County.

New construction in Cape Coral hit the tote board at $708,654,831, according to the estimate, down from $1,049,649,908 in 2021. The taxable valuation from 2022 is came in slightly higher than last year at $1,038,047,685.

However, much of the increased numbers happened before Ian hit and that prevented the increases from being much higher.

“We were having a really good year up until the hurricane. The numbers that came off the rolls because of the substantial reduction in value caused by damage were not enough to match the impact in Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach,” said Gloria Tate of Raso Realty.

Overall, estimated overall just valuation in Lee County rose 10.30 percent over last year. County just valuation went up from $180,629,897,687 to $199,228,765,000, an increase of nearly $18.6 billion.

Total taxable valuation increased from approximately $112.6 billion to $118.4 billion, an increase of $5.86 billion or 5.21 percent. The school taxable valuation numbers were higher with an increase of approximately $9.63 billion, or 7.23 percent.

Property tax increases are capped in Florida, with owner-occupied residential properties receiving the greatest protection if taxing agencies do not adopt a rollback tax rate, the rate at which taxes remain level for exiting properties when valuations soar. Homeowners with the homestead exemption face a maximum 3 percent tax increase. Those without it are capped at 10 percent

For the islands, the Sept. 28 storm had a large impact on overall valuation.

Sanibel’s total just valuation soared 32.39 percent with its taxable valuation increasing by 12.13 percent in 2021. After Hurricane Ian hit, the town lost all its gains and then some. Just value dropped 16.51 percent while taxable value cratered at 30.85 percent down.

Fort Myers Beach fared worse. Its just value dropped 30.87 percent while the taxable value dropped nearly 40 percent as the town was nearly reduced to rubble following the storm.

The city of Fort Myers saw its total just valuation estimate increase by 10.9 percent following a 24.68 percent increase in 2021, and its taxable tally increase was 10.63 percent, as opposed to 17.12 percent the previous year.

The fire districts in unincorporated Lee County had mixed results. Lehigh Acres saw overall taxable property valuation increase an estimated 2.04 percent, Bayshore went up 2.71 percent, while Matlacha dropped 4.64 percent and North Fort Myers 6.4 percent, the latter representing its first drop in valuations in a decade.

The purpose of the value estimate is to give the taxing authorities an initial estimate for developing their budgets and property tax rates.

Caldwell’s office will continue to refine these estimates and will certify the official values before July 1. In the past that number has come up larger, but with the events of the past year, how the final numbers will come can’t be predicted on the past.

For taxing entities, increased taxable valuation means an increase in revenue at the current rate of taxation; the “rollback” millage rate keeps revenue flat.

The final figures of all taxing districts will be sent to Tallahassee for approval when finalized.

TRIM — Truth in Millage — notices will be mailed to property owners in August. Property owners will then have 25 days to resolve any disagreement in value with the property appraiser.