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Inflation, migration boost assessed valuations, property taxes on Treasure Coast, Okeechobee

'It's just too much money,' Martin County resident Danny King says
Posted at 7:51 PM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-14 08:18:52-04

STUART, Fla. — Communities across the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County are seeing increases in property tax and even non-ad valorem taxes due to inflation and migration into South Florida.

The rising costs are prompting calls from citizens, pleading for an end to the rate hikes.

Residents in Okeechobee rallied at an Aug. 24 commission meeting to voice their opinions against two special assessments that would raise the rate of waste collection and emergency services by $60 per household each.

"You have these increases going up, people have had to make some drastic drastic changes," Chuck Dale, who is on a retired fixed income, said.

Then Monday, residents in Port St Lucie called on City Council members to lower the millage rate amid rising property taxes.

"My goal is not to see my taxes nine grand," resident Robert Rivera said.

Port St. Lucie resident Robert Rivera wanted a lower millage rate to ease his tax bill. Sept. 13, 2023
Port St. Lucie resident Robert Rivera wanted a lower millage rate to ease his tax bill. John

Martin County commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday to discuss raising the millage rate by 2.6 percentage points from 9.96 to 10.22, something Stuart resident Danny King was not pleased to hear.

Danny King is on a retired fixed income in Martin County. Sept. 13, 2023
Danny King is on a retired fixed income in Martin County.

"Nope, anytime I have to pay any taxes. Nobody likes it," King said.

Like so many others, property taxes are bleeding his wallet dry.

King purchased a new home last year, and when his property taxes were re-appraised, they increased by six times what they were, going from $600 to $3,600.

If the 2.6% increase goes through, he'll end up paying $4,000.

"I have a decent-paying job, but the cost of living has ate up every residual bit of income I have," King said.

Of the three, Martin County is the only one proposing millage rate hikes. Port St. Lucie actually lowered its millage rate, and Okeechobee's stayed the same at 8.000.

Since the assessed values in Port St. Lucie and Okeechobee are going up, property taxes are too.

But for those with the Save Our Homes state law, the assessed valuation of a home can only increase by 3% yearly.

"Because of new construction, higher home prices," Okeechobee Commission Chairman David Hazellief said.

Okeechobee Commission Chairman David Hazellief said the county is facing rising costs. Sept. 13, 2023
Okeechobee Commission Chairman David Hazellief said the county is facing rising costs.

Hazellief said the county is facing rising costs too, which is the reason commissioners have had to raise trash collection and emergency fees.

"An ambulance is half-a-million (dollars). A fire truck is $750,000. A ladder truck is $1.5 million. It's never-ending," Hazellief said.

Hazellief said those are costs the county simply can't skimp on.

In Martin County, inflation and migration are affecting the cost of basic services, raising it by $7.4 million, officials said in Tuesday's meeting.

The county saw increases in operating costs from fire rescue services to fuel and equipment, landscaping, tree canopy audits and even streetlights, which officials said in part had to do with a 12% increase in Florida Power & Light rates.

Still, the necessary changes are trickling down to residents, costs they said are becoming unmanageable.

"It starts at the top and comes down to us," King said. "Everybody pays too much. It's just too much money."