GULFPORT – The good news? Gulfport property values are on the rise again. The not-as-great-news? That means some property owners will pay more if council doesn’t lower the tax rate.
Tuesday night, city council voted to set a tentative millage rate of 4.039 mils, or $4.04 per $100,000 of taxable value. Currently, Gulfport property owners pay 4.039 mils in property taxes to the City of Gulfport. County, school and water management district taxes are neither set nor collected by the city but appear on property tax bills issued by the county.
The tentative millage rate, by law, represents the highest amount the city can tax property owners. As council works through the budget for the coming fiscal year, it can set a final rate lower than the tentative rate, but cannot set the rate higher.
The tentative millage rate of 4.039 mils leaves the tax rate untouched; although council is not raising the tax rate, as Gulfport property values rose .92% over the last year, that means property taxes will increase an average of .92% under the tentative millage rate.
“Technically, the city will not have a tax increase as long as the adopted millage rate does not exceed 4.0087 mills, the calculated rollback rate for the coming tax year,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said in a memo to staff.
The term “rollback” refers to a way to keep revenue steady for the city from year to year. It refers to the tax rate the city needs to set so that it collects the same amount of revenue from property owners as it did the year before.
Ward One Councilwoman Jennifer Salmon asked her fellow councilors to consider a higher tentative rate rather than using PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) from the water and marina departments to balance the budget. She suggested a 4.14 millage rate, which she estimated would raise the millage rate for a $100,000 home with two exemptions roughly four dollars.
No councilmembers agreed with her, although she said her suggested higher rate would cost the average homeowner four dollars a year.
“I’m not going to support anything above… now, two weeks for now, or in September,” Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke said. Councilman Michael Fridovich agreed.
“I can’t, because I said I wouldn’t,” Mayor Sam Henderson said, explaining that he promised “a whole bunch of people between December and March” that he “wouldn’t raise taxes unless property values fell again.
“At some point,” he said, “we’re going to get back to that 4.3 range, but we need to give people another year of recovery” (before we raise millage again). The city had a higher millage rate before property values fell several years ago.
A 4.039 millage rate will bring in $2,648,561; a 4.0087, $2,628,692. Council will vote twice on the final tax rate: once at the September 4 council meeting and again on September 18.