|Tavares Lowers Property Tax Rate 13.13%
Adopts Equitable Fire Assessment
|Link to Rates
After conducting a series of public budget meetings, Tavares City Council lowered the property tax rate 13.13% from 6.89 mils down to 5.985 mils and adopted an equitable fire assessment.
Tavares has had a very good year, as its”steady as she goes” economic development plan has begun to bear fruit. Several large employers have opened up businesses this year in Tavares (Osprey Lodge Senior Living, Shantiniketan Retirement Community, and Lakeview Inn). Next year will bring additional large employers, including the Big House Sports Complex, a variety of medical offices and surgical centers, Florida Waterman Hospital’s $7 million expansion, Shantiniketan Phase II, another 4-story downtown hotel with retail shops and restaurant, and more to follow. As a result, there has been a continuing shift of the tax burden off of the shoulders of the residential property owners towards new commercial properties. That ratio will soon reach the City’s original goal of 60% on residential and 40% on commercial. (Just a few years ago the ratio in Tavares was 80% on residential and only 20% on commercial.)
The positive economic conditions that Tavares is beginning to enjoy today did not materialize without a tremendous amount of hard work, civic entrepreneurship, calculated risk, fiscal challenges, budget cuts and community support. Over the last few years, while downsizing staff and cutting the budget by more than $1.3 million, the City has completed the Seaplane Base & Marina, the Children’s Splash Park, a train platform, Aesop’s Park, expanded Woodlea Sports Complex, and negotiated agreements to replace railroad tracks through downtown and between neighboring cities. Three major City projects are still moving forward, the Train Depot (new home to the Tavares Chamber of Commerce and the Orange Blossom Cannonball), the Tavares Pavilion on the Lake, and the expansion of Wooton Park.
Property values have begun to stabilize, and this year, when the Council began their budget review in April 2012 for Fiscal Year 2013, there was a focus on fiscal equity.
One of the fiscal equity issues that was reviewed and addressed was the number of properties within the City limits that do not pay taxes for the services they receive from Tavares, such as government buildings, non-profits, and residential properties that have multiple exemptions. These properties receive City services, but do not pay for those City services. The City’s goal is for everyone to pay their fair share of taxes for the City services they receive.
In order to address this issue, the City Council determined the best approach was to develop a fire assessment, which could be applied to all commercial and residential properties, regardless of exemptions. By having a fire assessment where all commercial and residential properties contribute to fire service, this now spreads the cost among everyone who gets the service, which brings the costs down for everyone. For example, the City Council was able to lower the millage rate by 13.13%, from 6.89 mils down to 5.985 mils for everyone. The City’s fire assessment fees will be collected through the City’s monthly utility billing, beginning November 2012. The fire assessment for City residential properties will be $11.84 a month. The fire assessment fees for commercial and industrial properties will be based on square footage. Churches, not-for-profits and governmental properties continue to remain exempt from paying for fire services, however, the Council has requested that government agencies receiving free fire service from the City of Tavares be approached this year to consider paying their fair share, too.
Currently, all County buildings receive City fire protection, but do not pay for it because they are tax exempt. In the future, if they start paying their fair share for the fire protection, this has the possibility of generating more revenue, further lowering the burden of fire protection cost on commercial enterprises and residential property owners. This is a win-win-win for everyone as the City continues to reduce costs, reduce the property tax rate and provide a more equitable cost sharing for services rendered.