LCSS sets millage rate

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

LEESBURG -- The millage rate for school property taxes in Lee County will remain the same in Fiscal Year 2011 as it was in FY 2010, but it will be generating less money for the school system to operate on.

"The value of the mill has gone down, which is unusual for Lee County," Lee County Superintendent Lawrence Walters said to the board.

Lee County Board of Assessors Chief Appraiser Joe Wright told the Board of Education the values for 15 mills for maintenance operations and 0.4 mill for bonds at Monday night's meeting, which didn't attract any members of the public.

While the property tax rate will stay flat for the third straight year, it will generate less revenue for the school system. At 15 mills under the county's 2010 tax digest, $13.02 million would be generated, $97,084, or 0.78 percent, less than what was realized in FY 2010 under the county's 2009 tax digest.

The biggest share of the county's tax digest comes from real and personal property, which rose $5.7 million from 2009 to 2010, but that gain was more than offset by losses in other property tax categories.

Wright said assessment of motor vehicles had one of the biggest impacts on the 2010 tax digest, with a decrease of $8.67 million. In 2009, motor vehicles had a value of $94,271,470, but that dropped to $85,604,940 in 2010.

The sour economy has kept people from buying new vehicles and cars' values have decreased, Wright explained. The Department of Motor Vehicles determines motor vehicle value based on retail and loan value percentages, he said.

There were also decreases in timber, $1.3 million, and mobile homes, $677,264, while a smaller component, heavy equipment, rose $16,263, going from $77,540 in '09 to $93,803 in '10.

Although the housing market remains strong in the Lee County, Wright said that it's taking longer for homeowners to sell a home. Previously, a house would sell within about a month of being listed and now it's taking about eight months, he said.

Wright said the state has put a moratorium on home property values until 2012.

"It's going to be more interesting before it gets better," Wright said at the end of his short presentation.

The Lee County Board of Education will adopt a final millage rate at its noon July 29 meeting.

Gary Kelley, assistant superintendent of business and financial services, said the Lee County School System recently passed a tentative total budget for FY 2011 of $53.2 million, down from last year's $56.5 million budget because of state cuts.