Tuesday, November 28

Inflation, migration boost property tax increases on Treasure Coast, Okeechobee

Communities across the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County are seeing increases in property tax and even non-ad valorem taxes due to inflation and migration into South Florida.

The rising costs are prompting calls from citizens, pleading for an end to the rate hikes.

On Aug. 24, residents in Okeechobee rallied at the Commission meeting to voice their opinions against two special assessments that would raise the rate of waste collection and EMS services by $60 per household each.

“You have these increases going up, people have had to make some drastic drastic changes,” Chuck Dale, who is on a retired fixed income, said.

Then Monday, residents in Port St Lucie called on City Council members to lower the millage rate amid rising property taxes.

“My goal is not to see my taxes nine grand,” resident Robert Rivera said.

On Tuesday, Martin County Commissioners held a public hearing to discuss raising the millage rate by 2.6 percentage points from 9.96 to 10.22, something Stuart resident Danny King was not pleased to hear.

“Nope, anytime I have to pay any taxes. Nobody likes it,” King said.

Like so many others, property taxes are bleeding his wallet dry.

King purchased a new home last year, and when his property taxes were re-appraised, they increased by six times what they were, going from $600 to $3,600.

If the 2.6% increase goes through, he’ll end up paying $4,000.

“I have a decent paying job, but the cost of living has ate up every residual bit of income I have,” King said.

Of the three, Martin County is the only one proposing millage rate hikes. Port St Lucie actually lowered their millage rate, and Okeechobee’s stayed the same at 8.000.

Sinnce the assessed values in Port St Lucie and Okeechobee are going up, property taxes are too.

But for those with the Save Our Homes state law, the assessed valuation of a home can only increase 3% yearly

“Because of new construction, higher home prices,” Okeechobee Commission Chairman David Hazellief said.

Hazellief said the county is facing rising costs too, which is the reason commissioners have had to raise trash collection and EMS fees.

“An ambulance is half a million, a fire truck is $750,000, a ladder truck is $1.5 million, It’s never ending,” Hazellief said.

Hazellief said those are costs the county simply can’t skimp on.

In Martin County, inflation and migration are affecting the cost of basic services, raising it $7.4 million, officials said in Tuesday’s meeting.

The county saw increases in operating costs from fire rescue services to fuel and equipment, landscaping, tree canopy audits, and even streetlights, which officials said in part had to do with a 12% increase in Florida Power and Light rates.

Still, the necessary changes are trickling down to residents, costs they say are becoming unmanageable.

“It starts at the top and comes down to us, everybody pays too much, its just too much money,” King said.

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