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Property tax bills set to mail in Lee; work advancing on relief for damaged homes, businesses

Hurricane Ian aftermath
Amy Beth Bennett
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Owner Robert Leisure walks into what used to be the gift shop of the Getaway Marina on Fort Myers Beach on Thursday Sept. 29, one day after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Lee County.

More than 580,000 Lee County property owners will receive their 2022 tax bills in the coming weeks, about a month behind schedule due to Hurricane Ian.

Tens of thousands of property owners now face having to pay taxes reflecting property values as of January 1, 2022, and not the value after the homes and business properties were affected by the monstrous storm of Sept. 28.

The destroyed properties will be taken off the tax rolls for next year’s tax bills. However, relief could be in sight earlier if the matter of taking properties off the tax roll for the last quarter of the current year is approved during a special session of the state legislature, tentatively scheduled for next month.

If the measure of giving relief to those impacted by the storm becomes law, property taxpayers whose homes are uninhabitable because of Ian, will be refunded portions of their 2022 property tax bill.

How many property owners this will impact remains to be seen, said Matt Caldwell, Lee County’s tax collector.

Caldwell thinks a total number may not be known until June. He said his office will be taking a look at upwards of 100,000 properties that could be deemed uninhabitable because of Ian.

Lee County Property Appraiser announces addition of post-Ian aerial photography to leepa.org

He said different agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and fire districts are submitting data to his office for review.

“We are planning from a logistical standpoint that we are going to have to evaluate 100,000 properties when you add up everything on Sanibel, everything on Fort Myers Beach, everything on the outer islands, everything in Iona, everything in South Cape,” Caldwell said.

But first the current year’s tax bills need to be sent out and paid.

Caldwell and Lee County Tax Collector Noelle Branning say they are trying to be sensitive to the plight of so many taxpayers whose lives have been upended by Ian.

For that reason the Tax Collector’s Office has extended deadlines to pay tax bills and still be eligible for discounts of up to 4 percent, as long as the tax bill is paid in full.

The tax bills, which go out in the mail Nov. 23, will spell out the timeline for cost savings. Or, property owners can go to LeeTC.com to view their tax bills and learn more about the discounts available.

“Both Noelle and I have worked really hard to try and make this process as seamless as we can and delay it for as long as it can reasonably be delayed. You know we live here too. We’re dealing with it the same as everyone else. And so, we are certainly cognizant of what folks are going through and we are trying to help them out as best we can,” Caldwell said.

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