Real Estate Straight Talk – It’s Tax Time Again

Real Estate Straight Talk – It’s Tax Time Again

Having just received our property tax bill I feel it timely to analyze a couple of the line items that add significantly to the total owed. Just call it the “eternal optimists” approach to justifying the check as it’s written.
The Millage Rate for our schools of 8.069 is used to qualify for state funding, day to day operation and maintenance/ construction. If you ask me that sounds like a lot of money! On the other hand I took a look at how those dollars are spent. The 2011 enrollment reflects our district serves 31,000 students with more than 2,600 students in Career Academies. What we seldom see are the unfunded mandates established by our
State or Federal Government and the enormous financial burden it places on the budget. I asked a few questions and learned the following interesting facts:

Revenue received per student – $6838. Are all students’ needs the same?
Out of the approx. 31,000 students: 4260 are disabled students who have learning or intellectual disabilities, emotional/behavioral or autism spectrum disorders, speech/ language or sensory impairments and developmental delays.
7400 Students require medical aid/assistance which must be provided by a school nurse or a properly trained teacher. Our district elected to hire school nurses to assure the teachers remained focused on the learning needs of the children while nurses provide for the medical needs.
7359 Students qualify for free/ reduced meal service. This reflects the challenges to learning in the most fundamental way 2685 Younger students require extended hours through before & after school care. In some cases, additional funds are supplied by the parents to offset the expense but funds collected fall short of actual costs.
The class size amendment is a topic by its own merit but I can assure you the costs associated with this law is high.
Of course, we all want to justify the checks when written so I decided to research this and realized the effect of great schools on home values. After reading volumes of data, I was particularly interested in the research conducted by Thomas ].Kane & Stephanie K Riegg of UCLA with Douglas 0Staiger of Dartmouth College, published in April16, 2004. It states “that mean test scores are significantly related to property values’: In one of their tables, “a sharp increase in housing prices at the boundary, with prices being roughly 12% higher for houses just inside the high-scoring district” was reflected. Armed with that info I compared values in the mainland golf neighborhoods of St. Augustine (The Shores and Royal St. Augustine) to the values of homes within golf course communities in Clay County. I looked at 2011 sales of 3 bedroom 2 bath homes typical of the neighborhoods with 2000-2250 sq.ft. The price range within the Shores was 198,000 to 256,000. The price range within Royal St. Augustine was 245,000-290,000. Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club reflected a price range of 149,900-228,000 while Fleming Island prices ranged from 160,000-200,000. Clay County was selected due to its proximity to Jacksonville and job base similarities to St Johns County. It isn’t uncommon for families to move to St. Johns County yet commute to their jobs in Jacksonville. The biggest reason according to most Realtors is the quality of the schools. St. Johns County ranks first overall out of 67 counties on the FCAT. Our Graduation Rate is 92.63%, higher than the state average of80.7%. SAT scores of 1578 are above the state average of 1473 and a national average of 1509. Congratulations to our schools & their leadership! Well, I don’t know about you but I
feel better just knowing that the school portion of my property taxes actually does have an affect on the value of my home.
I started the same research on crime and it’s parallel on home values. Not surprisingly, I found the same thing. Property values go down as crime goes up. What surprised me most was that the study conducted by Stephen Gibbons and Stephen Machin in December, 2007 suggested criminal damage to personal property and vandalism/graffiti has the biggest affect. Based on our most recent neighborhood experience, I encourage everyone to be aware of their surroundings and support the efforts of your community watch captain. Strong schools and low crime are crucial to maintaining our property values.

See the full Marsh Creek Journals at: http://multimedia.staugustine.com/video/neighbors/marshcreek/

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