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.
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?