New construction up but tax roll sees only slight gain - South Lake Press: News

TAVARES New construction up but tax roll sees only slight gain

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Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014 12:16 pm

New construction added more than $295 million in taxable value to Lake County’s 2014 tax roll, an 88.5 percent increase over the amount of new construction seen last year, Property Appraiser Carey Baker said Friday.

“For the second year in a row, new construction is the driver of tax roll growth for the county and most cities,” he said in a press release.

Some 1,586 new residential homes and 74 new commercial buildings were added to the tax roll this year, Baker said, compared with 874 residential and 46 commercial starts last year.

“This is also the first year since 2007 in which all cities are seeing increases in single-family residential values,” Baker said in the release.

The tax roll itself only grew by about 3.57 percent, Baker said, partly because of losses in Tangible Personal Property, mostly business equipment. These losses were estimated at $91.5 million, an increase of $14.4 million over last year’s loss of $77.1 million.

The largest losses were Covanta, a waste to energy plant, and Quantum Lake Power, with combined losses of $37 million, Baker said.

Also offsetting the gains in new construction were other contributing factors such as obsolescence among telecommunications industries and industrial properties totaling $35.5 million, and the closure of several businesses totaling $11.8 million, the press release said.

“Small business owners are still hunkered-down and not re-investing — while the telecoms and other industries are seeing huge changes in technology leading to obsolescence of existing equipment,” Baker said. “Without re-investment or substantial new industry moving into the county, losses in the tangible sector of the tax roll could be a troubling long-term trend.”

However, Baker called a nearly 1 percent increase in homes with permanent homeowners receiving a homestead exemption, or 78,372 units, an encouraging sign for residential growth and neighborhood stabilization.

This is the first increase since 2009, he said.

The property appraiser’s 2014 Best Estimate of Taxable Value for the Lake County General Fund is up 3.57 percent from last year and the Lake County School Board is up 3.78 percent. County commissioners and school board members, facing extremely tight budgets this year, were hoping for more, they previously said.

The taxable values in all cities are up with the exception of Leesburg, which is basically flat at -0.19 percent, Baker said. The city of Groveland outpaced all others at 14.17 percent, while the South Lake region as a whole continues to experience the most growth.

Groveland Mayor Tim Loucks was surprised by the 14.17 percent increase in taxable value, saying he’d been told by some people that the increase might be around 3 percent.

“The increased percentage is just astronomical,” he said. “I’m elated. It’s what I have been trying to say for two to three years, that as our city grows, so does our tax base.”

Loucks said that the percentage increase is equivalent to $54 million in new construction.

“We’re still growing at an unbelievable rate, too,” he added. “We have new homes that are still not even completed and several new developments coming soon. We went through very hard times, but we’re out of that now and on our way up.”

Staff Writer Roxanne Brown contributed material to this report.

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