Port St. Lucie approves lower millage rate; residents brace for increased taxes

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 11:55 PM EDT
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Port St. Lucie City Council members cast a vote in favor of a preliminary budget to lower the city’s millage rate Monday night, but residents voiced their concerns about a projected rise in property taxes because of their increased home values.

The second meeting, also including a vote, is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Despite lowering the millage rate, taxes would increase by $127.14 per year for an average single-family home with a homestead exemption of $50,000.

Caroline Sturgis, the budget director for the city, said that's because the assessed values of properties have increased in the city by nearly 23%. The proposal represents a 0.1 reduction over last year.

Caroline Sturgis, the budget director for Port St. Lucie, describes the property tax process.
Caroline Sturgis, the budget director for Port St. Lucie, describes the property tax process.

"If we did not do the millage rate reduction, if the millage rate would have stayed at 5.3, your taxes would've been higher. Right now we're projecting taxes at 892. If the millage had remained at 5.3, the taxes would've been 909," Caroline Sturgis, the budget director for the city, said.

Residents of Port St. Lucie pay an average of $3,322.02 in property taxes based on the 2022-23 average taxable amount for a property, but only $892 goes to the city, according to the city's website.

This was one of two meetings for the budget, as residents filled the special city council meeting voicing their concerns on how a raise would impact them.

"There's no industry in Port St. Lucie to justify this amount in taxes," Robert Rivera, a 26-year Port St. Lucie resident, said. "This is still a residential retirement community and a low-budget job community."

"What could they do to make people like you happy?" WPTV reporter Joel Lopez asked.

"Keep at a flexible rate. Don't raise our taxes every two years," Rivera answered. "My goal is not to see my taxes 9-grand."

Other residents are upset about factors such as a new trash company FCC Environmental Services, and the fact they only pick up trash once a week and bulk once a month.

"Our service has been very good, but our rate has been going up tremendously," Debby Mucklow, a 28-year resident, said. "I don’t believe it's worth it. Twice the money for half the service."

"I love my home and I work hard for it, but I won't be able to live in it if they keep raising it," Alice Jones, a 10-year resident, said. "They just raised the tax last year and right back again this year."

"Have you thought about a Plan B if you can no longer afford your home?" Lopez asked.

"I'm not gonna sell my home. I'm gonna fight. I'm gonna do all that I can think of to make it," Jones said.

The city has 230,000-plus residents, making it the sixth-largest city in Florida, according to the City Council.

"We are the fourth-lowest taxing agency out of 20 other large cities in the state of Florida, so you're really getting a great value for your tax dollars," Sturgis said.

Sturgis said what the City Council controls are two line items on tax bills: ad valorem and the Crosstown voted debt.

She said because of inflation, all city projects have increased 30% to 50%.

Residents at the meeting argued more people moving in increases the amount in taxes the city receives, but the city said it needs to keep up with the demand for public services.

"For your taxes, you're getting a safe city with the police department, parks and recreation, public works — the list goes on and on," Sturgis said.

If you'd like to see how much your tax dollars are working for you, the city has a new tool to break down the numbers on its website.

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