How Are My Property Taxes Determined?
There are five primary factors that influence the taxes you pay:
- Whether you’re a property owner.
- The value of the properties you own.
- The millage rate set by each taxing authority.
- The number of taxing authorities on your TRIM notice.
- Exemptions and caps for which you may qualify.
Property owners must pay property taxes based on the values of their homes or businesses. These values are determined by the Property Appraiser, a constitutional officer of the County whose purpose is to establish an equitable value for all properties in the county.
There are several taxing authorities that have the legal authority to tax citizens for services they provide. These include the Board of County Commissioners, Pinellas County Schools, municipalities, water management districts, the Juvenile Welfare Board, community service districts and various fire districts.
The Board of County Commissioners is a separate taxing authority from the others and is only responsible for a portion (approximately 29%) of the overall taxes people pay (see Tax Rate table for an illustration). The various taxing authorities must establish a tax rate (or millage) that allows them to collect the resources necessary to operate their organizations for the coming year.
A homesteaded property is one that you own as your primary residence. To qualify for homestead, you must meet the residency requirements and fill out a form from the Property Appraiser’s office.
Once homestead is established, the first $25,000 in property value is not taxed. With the passage of Amendment 1 in 2008, an additional exemption will be automatically applied on the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000. It does not apply to school taxes.
After being under the homestead for a year, you may qualify for the “Save Our Homes” cap, which caps the rate of growth on your property tax to 3% per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
There are other optional exemptions throughout the County for disabled residents, widows and senior citizens. Amendment 1 also provides for “portability” with respect to the savings afforded by the Save Our Homes cap. For more information on these, contact the Property Appraiser’s Exemption Department at (727) 464-3207 to see if you qualify.
Truth in Millage (TRIM) Notices
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. For example, on a $100,000 property, one mill would generate $100.
Once the proposed millage rates are established by a vote of each of the taxing authorities, the Property Appraiser mails a Truth in Millage (TRIM) notice to all property owners. The TRIM notice provides an estimate of the value of your property, lists all of the taxing authorities and provides an overall total estimated property tax.
The TRIM notices are mailed out in August, pursuant to state statute, prior to the September passage of the budget. Each taxing authority must either pass the proposed budget or reduce it from that point on.
The Florida Constitution establishes five Constitutional Officers for each county: The Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Tax Collector.
- The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of the county with jurisdiction throughout the county. His duties include law enforcement, operation of the county’s only jail and providing security to the courts.
- The Clerk of the Court is the chief financial officer for the county and the primary recorder and record keeper for the courts and the Board of County Commissioners. The Clerk also records all real estate transactions and collects fines and fees for the court system.
- The Property Appraiser determines the value of each property within the county based on pre-established guidelines from the State and mails out the TRIM notices to the citizens. The Property Appraiser is also responsible for determining whether applicants qualify for the various exemptions and caps including Homestead and Save Our Homes.
- The Supervisor of Elections organizes and monitors the integrity of all elections in the county and certifies the winners and the official results.
- The Tax Collector collects various taxes and license fees and reports them to the State, including property taxes, tag fees, driver licenses, and hunting and fishing licenses.
The requirements for each of these Constitutional Officers are defined by state law and often allow little flexibility or discretion in how they are implemented.
There are also several elected officials who serve the county in state offices that are not considered Constitutional Officers of the county. In our criminal justice system, the people are represented by three separate but equally important groups: the Public Defender, who represents indigent defendants, the State Attorney, who prosecutes the offender
How Tax Dollars Are Spent
There are several factors that determine where tax dollars are spent, such as constitutional and state mandates, programs essential to reducing future costs, the rising cost of insurance, the County’s Strategic Plan and strategic focus areas, input from citizens during the budget process and other necessities at the time of budget formulation.