Local Tax Time – Property Taxes

Well, it’s tax time for the PoPs. No, it hasn’t suddenly become mid-April, so don’t worry about not having your paperwork all ready for the IRS yet. But it’s the time of the year (for these Floridians at least) when property tax bills get mailed out. And since we have three properties now… we get three bills, so it’s kindof a big event around here.

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This guy even has his own little tax – I think it’s $15/year that we pay at his annual check-up to be legal!

Don’t take that as a complaint. We’re okay with getting three property tax bills. In fact, we generally think of the two tax bills for the investment properties as just another cost of being a landlord.

And the property tax bill for our own home? Well… we’re pretty happy to pay our fair share there, as well. This year, our share of the local receipts is $1,846 for the property taxes on our primary residence. While I’m sure we wouldn’t complain if they were lowered, in general we feel like we’re getting a pretty good value of the tax dollars we contribute locally. How do we judge if we’re getting a good value? Mostly because our tax bill actually gives a fair amount of detail into how our taxes are being spent locally, and that transparency looks pretty good to the PoPs.

 

Where Is Our Money Being Spent?

One of the things I like best about our property taxes (how often do you hear those words?) is that we get a LOT of information about how our dollars are being spent. So where are PoP tax dollars going this year?

County General Revenue – $313 – The local county government needs to run, have building and code enforcement, a police force, maintain local roadways, etc. This is just the basic functioning money, and we’re contributing less than $1/day to the general smooth operation of our county.

County Library – $30 – For all the use that we get out of our county library, we are getting a heck of deal here (even after you include the additional late fees that we also pay to the library)!

Public Schools – $839 – We don’t use the public school system (no mini-PoPs at the moment), and who knows if we ever will, but right now we pay about as much as FL spends to educate 1 student for 1 month. There aren’t many school aged kids on our block, so I like to think of the 30ish houses on our street collectively covering the educations of the kids that do live here on the block. They’re good kids, so again… happy to pay.

City General Revenue – $70 – Our small town has its own additional police force and local government offices that get funded with this money. Those office workers have helped us many times, and the town puts on a lot of great free events that I’m assuming also get funded from this pile. We get a pretty good “bang for buck” on the city general revenue bill.

County Land Preservation/Inland Navigation – $46 – I’ve been told this money helps the county buy and maintain land in an undeveloped state. Since we have lots of parks and nature trails available, I’m inclined to think this money isn’t wasted.

Water Management District – $37 – Florida is a bit unique in how much water plays a roll in our ecosystem, so the state has special taxing zones called Water Management Districts that work with the Department of Environmental Protection to make sure the beaches, rivers, streams, canals, lakes, and even the river of grass running through the Everglades stays healthy. This district also helps maintain the health of the little lake that we get to look out on from our house everyday, making sure it stays healthy and clean for all the wildlife that stop by. The enjoyment we get out of just that is well worth the $37/year in my book!

Fire District – $303 – This is one of those bills that we’re pretty happy to pay for even if we don’t use it all that often. Our home has 2 fire houses within a mile, and the fire truck was the first emergency responder on the scene of my car accident. $303 seems a fair price for the safety and security they bring. [Totally curious - What do you pay for the fire department? If there's any area that's "overspent", my guess is that it's here considering how competitive elections for the fire board are...]

Mosquito Control – $35 – Mosquito control is a big deal here – not just in the sense that no one wants to come on vacation and get bitten by mosquitos at the beach, but also in the sense that controlling the mosquito population on a county-wide level helps prevent mosquito borne disease like West Nile Virus and Dengue fever from spreading. Our county does an awesome job with mosquito control. In the summer months, planes fly overhead at night that sprays something that prevents mosquito eggs from hatching and it works. Yes, we still have mosquitos, but mosquito borne diseases are controlled very well by these efforts and that is worth $35/year in my book.

Solid Waste – $172 – That’s $3.31/week – or about $1.10 for each of the three trucks that comes by our house each week to pick up a different type of waste. (Garbage, recycling, and landscaping materials.) Seems pretty reasonable.

 

And that’s it. That’s where the PoP property taxes are going.

We don’t have a huge basis of comparison since we’ve only ever owned property in this area – but in terms of a gut check on what seems “fair and reasonable”, we are more than okay with the amounts that we are being asked to contribute to these varied taxing authorities. A peaceful, well maintained county is important to us and county employees have always been great at helping us find information when we need it. Our town provides us with lots of free events and the town building code enforcement office is sooo helpful! The library, public schools, land preservation, mosquito control – we are glad that to pay for these priorities.

In addition to knowing where our taxes are going, I think I’m generally pretty amenable to them because Florida taxes are largely consumption based. Without a state income tax, we have a lot of control over how much state and local tax we owe. If you don’t want to pay as much sales tax – buy less stuff! We didn’t want a house with a huge tax bill, so we bought a small house. If you want a big house, be prepared for a bigger tax bill… in fact, it’s usually a MUCH bigger tax bill. Just another reason to love our little house!

 

Do you know how your local taxes are being spent? Does it affect how you feel about paying them? For those of you that have paid property taxes, do any of these line items look out of whack? How much do you pay for fire, garbage, etc where you live?

 

40 comments to Local Tax Time – Property Taxes

  • I’m billed about the same amount for my property tax on my condo, which is assessed at $270,000. I just wish our property taxes here were as transparent as yours. I can probably find all the information at city hall if I go digging for it but the letter I get in the mail only breaks down my property tax in 2 categories, schools, and general municipal funding. I didn’t know Florida has no state income tax. I want to push for a similar tax policy here, it would save me thousands of dollars a year because I’m not a big spender :0)
    Liquid recently posted..Coping With DebtMy Profile

    • With so many retirees, FL is much better off taxing consumption rather than income. Fl also has really broad public records laws (they’re called the Sunshine Laws…haha) that basically say public officials should make it as easy as possible for public records to be accessed and information disseminated. For people like me (The joke was that the second word I learned was “why?”), it’s nice to be able to find out so easily. =)

  • Those amount seem pretty reasonable. Mosquito control! What a thing! I wish we had scorpion control over here :)
    I never check my property tax, just how much it went up from the previous year. In the UK I could see how much my neighbors were paying for similar property and had it lowered because I paid more than them.
    Pauline recently posted..Friday recap, a boat ride and a giveaway!My Profile

    • Yeah, the mosquito control is a public health matter… but it works. FL’s number of cases of west nile and dengue are lower even than Arizona (which is a desert so should have fewer mosquitos) and has half as many people. Plus, I like it since I am a mosquito magnet!

  • Swimmy44

    Well being in CA the taxes are way higher than this – ours are just kissing $7000 and that includes of course our little rental apartment in the same building. Oakland taxes property at the price of purchase so if you owned your home since the 60s, your taxes would be under a grand a year – on this house purchased during the slump year, at time of purchase the tax on the property was on the early 2008 value of over $700K – around $14K tax – after we purchased it at the foreclosure price of just over $400K, taxes were reassessed at something like $6600/annually. Coming here from the east coast, our tax would have been even more in an eastern city so while not happy, we value that our taxes could be much worse had we not moved. At least here the tax will not go up annually (unless the city lays on a new fee for something not included in basic property taxes). The fees are included in my almost $7K total above and are about $750 a year. Still glad I’m not in NJ, NH or eastern MA. Would I rather live in AZ, FL, NV where taxes are lower – a resounding NO – we pay these high taxes for our great CA weather and at least we have no flying biting insects and don’t need AC and only occasional heat for a few months!! But I do think that taxes should be lowered in CA for retirees on fixed incomes – I am about to be one of those – and if that were the case, folks would flock to CA from those low taxed but bad weather states which are so popular!

    • Your taxable assessed values never increase? That’s crazy! What about decreases? Any significant drop in prices and I’d want to sell the properties to my husband to lock in a lower rate if that was how it worked…

      As for no flying biting insects, I wouldn’t be so sure that CA has none… Check out these maps of west nile virus cases for CA http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/wnv_ca_human.html and FL http://diseasemaps.usgs.gov/wnv_fl_human.html. If West Nile keeps spreading, I’m not going to be surprised if other states start taking mosquito control more seriously.

      • Jonathan

        In CA proposition 13 caps the increase in value at 2% annually. There are definitely rules against selling the property to someone at artificially low prices just for tax purposes though I’m not sure what they are.

        • Yes, I do suppose tax evasion would be frowned upon anywhere =) Here the county would just declare the transaction not “arms length” and exclude it from any valuation analysis.

  • We just voted on a memorandum last year that added a library tax to homeowners who have a property over a certain value. Glad to see you’re not bitter about yours! $30 isn’t that bad at all, actually…
    femmefrugality recently posted..Help me earn a $10,000 scholarship!My Profile

    • If I could pay an extra $10-$20/year and have the libraries all be open on Sundays, I’d pay that gladly too, I think! =)

    • An extra $30 here and $30 there (that’s not just thirty bucks: it’s $30 per hundred or per thousand), and the next thing you know you’ve got a $10,000 tax bill on a house you paid $230,000 for that’s now worth $175,000. This may be OK if you’ve got a job, but when you’re on a fixed income at an age where you don’t have a snowball’s chance of ever landing another decently paying job, it’s decidedly not OK.
      Funny about Money recently posted..Funny’s Fine Jewelry: Great Christmas Gift — or IndulgenceMy Profile

      • Hmmm… well, our house is worth about $170K these days (give or take), and our tax bill is about $1,800. It’d have to be A LOT of $30 add ons to get to $10K around here.

        But check out my response to your other comment on exemptions for property owners on fixed income. Does your state have anything like that type of relief?

  • CF

    I’m not sure about the exact division of our property taxes actually. Occasionally I get annoyed about paying for things I don’t use, but what can you do…
    CF recently posted..Managing your debt with consolidated creditMy Profile

    • I don’t know what the information laws are where you are, but if it’s not too hard to find out, you might end up being relatively pleased by how much gets spent on things you *do* use as compared to things you *don’t*. Maybe =)

  • When you pay for the garbage, does that mean you don’t have to pay a monthly fee? Here we have to sign up with a private service and pay monthly. The county doesn’t do garbage pickup.
    Kim@Eyesonthdollar recently posted..Small Tips for Holiday TravelMy Profile

  • I think that many people forget that their property taxes go to fund different things. We had a measure 6 months ago that would have eliminated property taxes and it really would have put the schools in grave danger here.
    ND Chic recently posted..I Got Called OutMy Profile

    • That’s crazy – Was there any other plan on how to fund the schools? Here the schools get money from several different sources (property taxes, a part of the sales tax, and then the lottery goes to fund education as well).

  • Ouch that the property taxes come around Christmas time! They seem fairly reasonable. Where we live, we pay a lower rate if we are primary residents. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or not, but it’s the school portion that you don’t pay if it’s your primary residence. That part has never really made sense to us! Why are the vacation condo folks paying for the schooling here? Oh well, I guess it’s a system that works somehow.
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Engagement Gift Ideas – Part IIIMy Profile

    • Well, they send them out in the fall, though technically you have until March to pay them. The earlier you pay, the bigger a discount you get on them – so we pay early most of the time.

      FL gouges non-residents on their tax bills a bit as well, giving most of the big exemptions and breaks to permanent residents (6 months + 1 day/year).

  • I used to blithely vote in favor of all the various tax overrides and bond requests the school districts came up with.

    That was back when I had a job. Remember? An actual income…

    Trying to scrabble together a living with Social Security and a few side gigs after your savings have been raped in an economic collapse (and may be so again in just another couple of months) paints an entirely different picture. And it makes you think twice about all those demands for more and more money.

    Our state’s schools are just terrible — near the lowest in the nation. Yet, although our property taxes are relatively low compared to those in other states, taken together property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes add up to one of the highest combined local/city/county/state tax burdens in the country. Voters have consistently voted in favor of tax increases to support our schools, and yet in terms of what we get for our money, the status quo remains…the status quo. In my college courses, I see the products of those schools: students who think Wisconsin is a Rocky Mountain state, Catholics are not Christians, and the only thing of note that happened during the 19th century was World War II.

    When you know you will not be able to remain in your home if taxes go much higher and when you see that higher taxes do little or nothing to improve things, you think twice about voting for yet another increase.
    Funny about Money recently posted..Funny’s Fine Jewelry: Great Christmas Gift — or IndulgenceMy Profile

    • I can’t speak for your home state, but I think Florida has made strides to meet the tax needs of those on fixed incomes like social security. With no income tax, and our county has just a 6% sales tax on non-food items, the main thing left is property tax. And for that, there have been quite a few constitutional amendments voted in over the past decade that have really served to lower the property tax burden for elderly, widow(er)s, wounded veterans and their spouses, etc.

      For example, if you own a house and live in it as your primary residence, you get a $50K exemption. If you’re a widow(er), that’s another $500, a veteran (or spouse) that was wounded in combat (another $5K)… mind you, all of these exemptions stack on one another. So a permanent resident widow of a combat veteran (like our 90+year-old neighbor) will have a $55.5K exemption on their taxable value – not to mention the 3% cap on yearly taxable value increases. Plus the 3 constitutional amendments that passed voters a couple weeks ago were expanding exemptions for disabled veterans, first responders (and spouses) who are wounded during duty, and providing FULL property tax relief for low income seniors who have lived in their properties for at least 25 years. You can now live in a home worth up to $250K, and not pay any ad-valorem taxes on it if your income is low enough and you have lived there for 25 years.

      I have yet to see a tax system that is perfect, but I think there are some attempts at trying to understand that there are wide variations in peoples’ abilities to pay.

      Just my $0.02.

      • You have to be extremely poor to qualify here. The deal is your taxes will be frozen at what they are in a certain year. But if you have money in savings that you expect to depend on into your dotage — which at the age of 65 could be another 30 or 35 years — that retirement savings will disqualify you from property tax relief.

        Fortunately, property taxes in Arizona are relatively low, compared to other states, although they certainly won’t stay that low. At one point we were told our taxes were reduced, but because the county assessor jacked up the property valuations during the bubble, most people’s taxes went through the roof.

        Then valuations were dropped, as people’s home values dropped so low most homeowners were underwater. At that point, they jacked up the property taxes. These will stay at their elevated rates, of course, as home values return to normal and continue to appreciate, and so what we got out of the recession was future tax bills that will be much higher than anything Arizonans have been used to.

        Taxes on my 1860-square-foot tract house are only about $2,000/year now. Between that and the homeowner’s insurance and the required car insurance, I self-escrow $445 a month to cover those huge no-escape bills. That’s on the high end of what I can afford…if taxes do go up significantly, I won’t be able to stay in this house.

        Arizona’s politics have traditionally been conservative, and elected leadership here is presently dominated by Tea-Partiers. Thus hostility to raising taxes (or even maintaining present tax rates) is high. That notwithstanding, voters recently agreed to make a one-percent tax on food permanent and take it out of the crazy legislature’s reach. Elected representatives have installed various devices to keep school districts from increasing taxes with gay abandon, the result of which is that with every election we get requests for special overrides and bond issues. Since the only people who vote one way or the other on those propositions are teachers and parents, they usually pass.

        Still, it’s hard to see much improvement in the products of our public schools. Arizona’s historic hostility to education shows, and it’ll take more than a ton of money to change that.
        Funny about Money recently posted..First sale!My Profile

        • A tax on food!?! Not prepared food, but grocery staples? Wow. That’s crazy.

          As for education, I think you’re probably right. I’d agree that there’s definitely an anti-education bent moving through the state from what I’ve heard – particularly against TUSD’s ethnic studies program.

  • [...] Planting Our Pennies, Mrs. PoP breaks down the property tax bill, to interesting [...]

  • Karen

    FL is similar to CA: my neighbors’ taxes appear to be based on the price they paid (but officially, it is the Save Our Homes value for homesteaded property)
    Mine is over $3300
    County services 720 and voted debt: $40
    County School Board: Capital outlay: 243, General Fund: 965
    Water management: Everglades: 8, Okeechobee: 26, SFWMD: 24
    Hospital: 82
    Children Svc: 67
    My small city: 822, debt service: 37
    FL Inland Navigation (intracoastal)5 (for me, canal deepening).
    Fire: 128
    Storm water: 40
    Solid Waste: 271

    Property in another state: schools: 808, Fire: 131, State: 163, Metro: 165

    • Thanks for sharing your breakdown!

      I’m fascinated that even though your overall bill is much higher, you pay way less for fire. It’s starting to make more sense why so many people like to run for fire commissioner every election (or so it seems!) =)

      • Karen

        Yes, but my Waste service is way more than yours! Garbage 2/week, recycle once and bulk pick up (objects and yard waste) once a monthly. It bugs me that technically, I only have yard pick up once a month (I use my regular can for it). Come on, it’s FL, we always have yard waste!

        My Fire is for my city, not the county. Is yours?

        • Yard waste only once a month? That is crazy… We don’t have yard waste too often, but when we do, I wouldn’t want to keep it around for 3 weeks waiting for the next truck! That just feels like it’s asking for bugs to take up residence. Ewww.

          Our fire is for our small city. Each city has its own little fire department around here.

  • Just curious, how many sq ft is your residence?
    101 Centavos recently posted..Caffe’ Corretto: How to Properly Accept a Job OfferMy Profile

  • [...] About Money found the outline of Our Property Tax Bill interesting enough to share with her readers in her post – First Sale. Check out the lovely [...]

  • [...] big spending month for us. Travel for Thanksgiving is pretty much always an expense, as well as the property tax bills that we like to pay in November if possible as well.  (Though they are not due until March, we do [...]

  • [...] local and foreign real estate taxes – our RE taxes are $1,846 for our [...]

  • Wow, is that ALL the state taxes you pay? I think I’m going to pay well over $50,000 in state taxes in 2012 and I’m definitely not getting even $20,000 worth of services in return, and this is just state!

    You are very lucky to pay so little. Rock on!

    S
    Financial Samurai recently posted..Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth For The Taxes You Pay?My Profile

    • That’s the bill for our primary residence – the two investment properties have a combined prop tax bill of ~$2350, but we tend to think of those as investment expenses rather than taxes.

      Living in a modest house in a state with a generous homestead exemption definitely works in our favor. That said, if you own a McMansion on the beach that isn’t homesteaded, your tax bill is probably going to be pretty friggin’ high. =)

  • [...] forward three years, and we’re incredibly happy with how much we pay in local property taxes. So what [...]

  • [...] out some CD and paperback swap sites to augment the awesome library that we also pay for with our property taxes, and we might try to rent out my car in the future. If we were not surrounded by retirees, we would [...]

  • [...] streak that makes me nervous sometimes. We’re both upstanding members of this community, pay our taxes and exchange pleasantries on our nightly walks. You would never guess that in the dark of night [...]

  • Thanks for linking back to this, Mrs. POP. I feel like our bills are pretty comparable considering the lack of a state income tax in Florida. It’s great to see this sort of detail and I definitely agree: it seems like we get a pretty good deal for what our taxes buy us.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Where My Property Taxes GoMy Profile

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