Writing Friday about my childhood friend Jeff brought back some high school memories.
I wasn’t exactly a straight-A student. I struggled socially and in the classroom, and I had a particular disdain for homework.
Especially Sunday night homework.
I tend to liken the Just Wright Citrus schedule to Sunday night homework. I’m finished for two days of blog writing after Thursday, but I can’t enjoy my weekend (ha!) unless I’m confident that Sunday night’s writing will go smoothly.
Procrastination is the name of my game, especially for the Monday blog. I could write it on Friday, or at least do the research, but I’d rather goof off. The same pattern established in high school continues to this day.
And this is how it works in real life:
Property Appraiser Cregg Dalton sent me a press release Wednesday evening about the county’s estimated taxable value. This is the number that local governments, such as the county commission and city council, use to determine property tax rates.
The property appraiser issues a tentative report on June 1, then a finalized tax roll on July 1.
I’ve written the annual Citrus County tax roll story probably 30 times. These reports are a great indicator of the economy and we can usually tell whether the county is on the upswing or not.
Dalton’s press release said taxable values of the county jumped over 10% the last year. With the big three — tourism, service and growth — all tied in some way to property values, that’s like saying the economy of the county grew by 10%.
I read the press release and sent it back to Dalton’s office with follow-up questions. In doing so I made two rookie reporter errors:
The property appraiser’s office is data-driven, so when I asked for a breakdown of taxable values across categories and local governments for this year and last year, that’s exactly what Dalton gave me. He even called Friday to make sure I had what I needed and offered to make himself available Sunday for a call if necessary.
I assured him I’d be good.
So, naturally, I looked at the data for the first time during Sunday night’s thunderstorm and realized I still didn’t have the answers. That’s not on Cregg and his top-notch staff. Had I reviewed the data when he first provided it to me instead of waiting for Sunday night homework, I wouldn’t be staring at a blank computer screen wondering how to fill Monday’s assignment.
I know you’re disappointed I won’t be breaking down that info into tiny digestible pieces today. I feel your pain.
Until then, two observations:
— If you’re new to Florida or just starting to pay attention, our tax structure is a math formula based on the county's or city's taxable value. Taxable value is a much smaller number than actual market value because of our numerous homestead exemptions and a Save Our Homes constitutional cap that says your taxable property value can’t rise more than 3% a year.
This is why county commissions, including ours, are exploring ways to initiate fees instead of property taxes. With exemptions and Save Our Homes, commissioners are finding property taxes a losing and unpopular proposition. Special assessment fees are paid by all property owners unless the county includes exemptions.
— Golf course homes historically capture high property values. Citrus County is loaded with golf course communities — Sugarmill Woods, Citrus Hills, Citrus Springs, Seven Rivers, and Black Diamond, to name a few — but we know some of these links have come on hard times or outright closed down in recent years.
A developer is eying the closed Pine Ridge Golf Club for single-family homes. Probably won’t be the last we hear of such an idea.
(One of the commissioners told me younger people aren’t playing golf. That’s shocking. Like any tanned Floridian, I keep my clubs in the trunk — just in case.)
I’m curious to see what closed golf courses do to the value of those homes. And, yes, I think of such things.
That’s it for this Monday. Be kind in grading my homework.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.