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|Many of South Floridians' tax dollars go toward public safety, support of our cities and counties, for culture and recreation, and for transportation.|
If you live in South Florida, you know it’s expensive. Now, there is more proof.
South Florida residents pay more than most statewide in property, city and school district taxes, as well as city permits and fees, according to a new 2019 report from Florida TaxWatch, which does a per capita comparison of Florida’s counties on taxes, revenue and expenses.
More of our dollars also go toward public safety, support of our cities and counties, culture and recreation, and transportation.
The annual report is done to give citizens "a better understanding of their government, to hold their government leaders accountable,” said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of TaxWatch.
Ah, the cost of living in paradise.
South Florida is the most populated region in the state, which is a prime reason for higher taxes. Miami-Dade County leads with 2.78 million people, followed by Broward with 1.9 million and Palm Beach County with 1.4 million.
Higher taxes are about providing the level of services needed in a major metropolitan area with more than 6 million residents, said Sean Snaith, economist for the University of Central Florida. So he doesn’t think South Florida residents have anything to complain about when it comes to taxes. “All these bodies need to be policed and educated and have their garbage hauled off,” he said.
At the same time, local government can’t make taxes too high because many residents already struggle with South Florida’s high cost of living, he said.
Bob Swindell, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, an economic development agency, noted that Broward has the highest per capita city property tax in the state. He said: “I love being No. 1 in the state for things like our performing arts center and schools. But I don’t like to be No. 1 per capita for local taxes.”
Still, he said local officials have to balance costs with preserving the quality of life. He said it’s not a good situation in Broward “when you’ve got sewer pipes blowing out and you have million-dollar homes. If you ask [those residents], would you be willing to pay more? They probably would say, ‘yes.’”
South Floridians also pay more in total property taxes, which is linked both to population and the high value of homes in the region, experts say.
Broward residents pay $2,011 per capita; in Palm Beach County, $2,490; and in Miami-Dade County, $2,040. That’s higher than two other metro areas: the Orlando area or Orange County, which is $1,719 per capita, and Tampa area or Hillsborough County, which is $1,337.
Broward ranks No. 1 in the state in property taxes paid to a city, $587.27 compared with $249 statewide.
How much have total property taxes grown? Over the past six years, they grew by 35 percent in Palm Beach County, 39 percent in Broward and 43 percent in Miami-Dade. Only Palm Beach County was below the statewide growth rate of 38 percent during the period.
“That’s a good-news, bad-news story. It’s a great indicator that property values have gone up, and we’re back to the pre-recession levels," Swindell said.
Since property values are higher, South Florida homeowners also see a greater benefit from “Save Our Homes,” a constitutional amendment that limits their annual assessment increase to inflation or 3 percent, whichever is less.
Palm Beach County ranks No. 1 in the state in Save Our Homes’ impact with $408 per capita, or the amount by which property taxes were reduced. Broward is No. 2 with an impact of $393. Miami-Dade ranks lower at $350. The statewide average savings is $244.
Broward has the highest per capita city tax on property such as homes and land in the state, $587. Palm Beach County is No. 3 with $449, and Miami-Dade is fourth with $417. The statewide average is $249.
How about those local taxes you pay on your mobile phone and cable service? Palm Beach County, you’re paying more, $43 per capita — the highest in the state.
Communications taxes from counties and cities amount to $39 in Broward and $34 in Miami-Dade.
Why are the taxes so high? Simply because Palm Beach County residents can afford to buy lots of communications services, explains Kelly Smallridge, president of the Business Development Board, the economic development agency for the county.
“Palm Beach County has the highest average income, so there’s a capability to stream Netflix and the county has a greater use of cellphones,” she said. “There’s a lot more money here. Salaries are higher," she said, citing wealthy communities including Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach island, Boca Raton and Wellington.
Residents of Palm Beach and Broward counties have above-average income per person. This includes what people earn in wages, business income, dividends, interest, rents and government benefits.
In Palm Beach County, residents earn $74,754 per capita; and in Broward, $48,680. Miami-Dade is just below the state average with $46,048. The state average is $47,684.
So you’re not a tourist, why do you have to pay a tourist development tax? Calabro explains that it’s actually revenue raised to keep tourists coming to Florida. As a consumer, you pay the tax every time you spend money at a restaurant or hotel in your county.
South Florida residents pay a 6 percent tourist tax in their counties, which is higher than many other counties, which range from no tax to 5 percent. The tax brings in revenue of $37 per capita in Palm Beach County, $42 in Broward, and $49 in Miami-Dade County. Miami-Dade also has a food and beverage tax of 2 percent in hotels and 1 percent in other establishments, which produces another $35 million.
Talk about griping: Nobody likes to pay fees for city permits to renovate their home. There are also local fees to obtain a license and impact fees to fund new community projects.
Broward collects the third-highest city permit and impact fees in the state, at $320.11 per capita. That compares with $217 in Miami-Dade and $203 in Palm Beach County. All are higher than the statewide average of $194.
Swindell said people should remember that despite higher taxes, South Florida has a lot to offer compared with northern regions, which have a state income tax — unlike Florida.
“When it comes to high taxes and harsh winters, the value is still right in South Florida,” he said.
Marcia Heroux Pounds