By Rich Pollack
Taxable property values in Palm Beach County’s coastal communities have continued to grow, with increases ranging from barely noticeable in Briny Breezes to more than 14 percent in neighboring Gulf Stream.
New construction and home sales to buyers who do not benefit from Florida’s homestead exemption are being credited for much of the increase in the coastal communities.
Countywide, the taxable property value increased 7.39 percent, according to preliminary numbers released in late June by Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits.
The countywide tax rolls increased for the third consecutive year and showed that taxable value increases were widespread throughout the county’s municipalities.
“This is the first time that every jurisdiction in Palm Beach County has had a taxable value increase in more than a half-dozen years,” said John Thomas, director of residential appraisal services for the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.
Little Briny Breezes barely made the cut, with assessed property values increasing only half a percent from $35.2 million to $35.4 million.
In South Palm Beach, taxable property values increased just 1.5 percent from $259.3 million to $263.1 million.
On the other end of the charts, Gulf Stream showed the largest increase of any municipality in Palm Beach County, with a 14.3 percent increase due largely to new construction on a 16.6-acre county pocket the town annexed in 2011.
“This is the biggest increase in the tax roll in my tenure,” said Town Manager William Thrasher, who has been in Gulf Stream for 19 years.
The completion of a five-story condominium building on the property, which hit tax rolls in 2013, helped increase the assessed value of new construction in the town by close to 700 percent, from $8.32 million to $65.73 million.
Thrasher said the increase could generate an estimated additional $407,000 in revenue for the town if town commissioners vote to keep the tax rate at $3.70 per $1,000 of taxable property.
That additional money, he said, could be used to offset the cost of legal fees to defend ongoing lawsuits filed against the town as well as to cover the cost of improved street lighting.
New construction also had a significant impact in Ocean Ridge, where assessed property values increased by 6.27 percent, with the taxable value of new construction growing from $1.6 million to $5.1 million.
Much of that, says Town Manager Ken Schenck, can be attributed to new single-family homes as well as improvements to existing homes.
Any additional revenue generated by the increase in assessed values, Schenck said, could be used to address issues that were placed on the back burner during the economic slowdown. “We’ve been holding back in the last few years on purchasing equipment and on salaries,” he said.
In Highland Beach, where the assessed value of new construction topped $14 million, Finance Director Cale Curtis said the town could receive as much as $432,000 in additional revenue if commissioners keep the tax rate at $3.95 per $1,000 of assessed value.
In Delray Beach — which saw close to a 10 percent increase in assessed property values — and Boca Raton — which saw a 5.63 percent increase in tax rolls — commercial property increases played a more significant role than in the coastal communities, which have far fewer businesses.
Florida law allows the assessments on commercial property and non-homesteaded property to increase as much as 10 percent a year but limits the annual increase for homesteaded properties to 3 percent or to the change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. This year, the consumer price index increased just 1.5 percent.
With home market values continuing to rise and with sales volumes increasing along the coast, some expect the upward trend in tax rolls to continue.
“Property tax rolls are higher now because of increases in values and increases in sales,” says real estate veteran Sue Tauriello. “We’re not where we were in 2004 and 2005 but, in my opinion, it looks like we’ll get there in the next couple of years.”