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Lealman property values bounce up

Thanks to the 14.1 percent increase, the fire service millage for residents will not have to go up, officials say.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001


LEALMAN -- Property values in this unincorporated area rose 14.1 percent, one of the county's greatest gains, but Pinellas officials warn that the increase is not based solely on higher land costs.

Lealman property increased from $634-million in 2000 to an estimated $724-million for 2001, according to figures released by the Pinellas County property appraiser.

About half of the $89.6-million increase in Lealman property value is a result of voters' decision last November to form a state fire district.

Pam Dubov, chief deputy property appraiser for Pinellas County, said the independent fire district's new valuation can include intangible property, such as desks, computers and appliances owned by businesses.

The windfall could mean that the fire service millage for Lealman residents will not have to go up next year from its current 4.9 mills, said Frank Bowman of the Pinellas County Community Development Department. Bowman and others from the county are working to revitalize the Lealman area.

The possibility of a stable millage rate would be good news for residents who feared they might be facing severely higher taxes after Seminole annexed a chunk of land on Lealman's western border last year. Some neighbors have feared the loss of revenue from businesses there would cause the tax rate to increase for the rest of Lealman.

Even if the millage rate remains the same, residents could pay more in taxes because their property is worth more.

"The values mean it's just more expensive for these low-income families to find housing," Bowman said.

That's also a natural effect of revitalization, he said. As the area looks better and improves, property values increase, squeezing out those least able to afford higher housing costs.

Only six other areas had bigger percentage increases than Lealman: the area of St. Petersburg around Tropicana Field, which went up 58.9 percent; North Redington Beach, 19.2 percent; Indian Shores, 18.4 percent; Dunedin, 15.4 percent; Indian Rocks Beach, 15.2 percent; and Oldsmar, 14.2 percent.

Lealman outpaced its mid county neighbors as land values in Pinellas Park increased by 7.4 percent, and by 7.1 percent in Kenneth City.

The property values will be used to determine the millage, which is the base for deciding the amount of taxes a property owner will pay. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 worth of property.

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