Village Council votes to increase property tax revenues by more than 17%

No matter how each member of the Village Council will attempt to describe it, on Monday, September 19, 2022, the Village Council made the conscious decision to increase taxes they will collect from the aggregate of all property owners in Islamorada by 18.77%.

NOTE: Comparing apples to apples is important when explaining year over year budgets. Because the village does not have final numbers for the current fiscal year, we are showing and comparing “projected collections” for FY2021 and FY2022. If we calculate based on the actual ad valorem taxes collected for FY2021 versus 96% of this year’s amount the increase is 17.57%.

Back to the story.

With almost no justification articulated, and a $75 million budget that shows only a 6.3% increase in expenditures, they voted unanimously to support the hefty increase. Note: Vice Mayor Rosenthal was absent and did not vote.

2021 Budget Summary | 2022 Budget Summary

The shell game.

Ad valorem property taxes make up just a portion of the $75,315,930 operating budget for the Village. The balance comes from permits, fees, fines, charges for services, and other sources.

And not all properties are equal. Roughly one third are homestead protected from escalating property taxes beyond 3% a year. Commercial properties and second homes don’t have those protections. The increases can affect all of us in other ways, like making it tougher for renters and our workforce.

The whole discussion of property taxes, rates, millage, and taxable value can be distorted to fit a narrative someone, usually a politician, wants to get across.

Case in point: Keeping the millage the same from one year to the next does not mean they haven’t raised the amount of taxes they will collect. Millage is a part of the equation, but not the entirety.

Millage (or mills) is a relatively obscure term that represents the tax rate levied on real estate or other property. A mill is one thousandth of a dollar or one tenth of one cent. So, the millage rate is the number of dollars of tax assessed for each $1,000 of property value.

It’s a little more complicated. And politicians know it. They are counting on the public to be so confused they give up asking why.

Our best advice.

When you hear one of them tell you they kept taxes at the same tax rate or millage, they’re wanting you to believe property taxes did not increase or change, but that is an incorrect assertion. You can keep the rate the same, but extract more taxes based on the county’s determination of increased taxable values.

(actual slide from staff presentation on FY2022 budget)

The Council is not required to keep the millage at 3 and an increase to taxable values does not trigger higher taxes. Any movement requires the consent and support from the Village Council, and don’t let them tell you otherwise.

They could have accepted a roll-back rate, which would have dropped it to 2.5449 mills and would have provided the same amount of funds as last year, or they could have chosen anything in between. Again, no honest and transparent rationale for the significant increase was given to the public.

Every single dime that could have been taken without raising the millage was taken.

Other financial blunders of 2022.

Stand up for taxpayers or maximize profits for shareholders

Lucrative contract for lobbyists

Something is rotten in Islamorada: Big severance payout

With almost no justification articulated, and a budget proposal that shows only a 6.3% increase in expenditures, they voted unanimously to support the hefty increase. Note: Vice Mayor Rosenthal was absent and did not vote.