No, your property taxes are not going up


Whatever the City Commission decides about next year’s ad valorem tax rate, nobody’s actual taxes on their current property will increase.


And while it’s possible that the Commission will approve a lower rate, the difference for current properties is negligible, and would only serve to allow its proponents to bray that they lowered your taxes. For the record, Lakeland's millage rate has been unchanged for the past six years, while tax revenue has increased every year due to new construction and new assessments of existing properties.


According to The Ledger:


City officials advertised that Lakeland would aim to keep its property tax rate unchanged heading into fiscal year 2022 this October – about $5.46 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That's higher than the rollback rate of $5.20 per $1,000 of assessed value


Under the current property tax rate, the average Lakeland single-family homeowner with a tax assessed value of $107,187 after homestead exemptions could expect to pay about $586 next year. That's an increase of about $50 thanks to property values increasing 10.6%, according to Polk County Property Appraiser's Office. 


The key ingredient here is “assessed value”. If your property hasn’t been reassessed since last year, your taxes will not increase. If the value of your property has not increased, neither will your taxes.


For those who have purchased a new (more expensive) home will pay more than they did for their previous home, and those who have made significant investment in renovations or additions or modifications - thereby increasing the value of the property - will likely see that property reassessed and will pay more in taxes on the new increased value.


So, if you haven’t bought new property, or made new investment in current property, you, like “most” homeowners, will not see an increase in your taxes. If the assessment on your property is unchanged, so will your taxes be.


Home owners are paying taxes on the value of the property as assessed when they bought it. In the absence of any significant new investment, that value remains unchanged until the property changes hands.


A home sale always triggers a new assessment. And in effect, the buyer sets that new value by agreeing to the purchase, thereby also agreeing to pay the taxes on that value. This is all voluntary and not a nefarious government plot to “increase your taxes”.


So, no, your taxes are not going up.


What will go up, most certainly, is the total tax collected. All new construction adds to the tax base. Almost all home sales generate higher assessed value and add to the tax base. Significant investment in existing properties can do the same.


So, without raising the rate, the City can increase its take and collect more revenue for the services it provides, including new initiatives that are part of making Lakeland, safe, equitable, and prosperous.


Once again, this outcome is passive and voluntary. The tax man is not coming to collect an additional pound of flesh, and Commissioners who argue against the proposal to leave the rate unchanged are just trying to kid you into believing they are working on your behalf, while denying you the benefit of the carefully managed growth that has made the city the place you want to live.


And one last note: The total revenue from property taxes is insufficient to fund the police department. Let that sink in and then maybe raise your hand and voice to urge the Commission to raise your taxes. Please.