Extra full-time Property Appraiser’s Office employee approved by County Commission for North Port office to handle increased demand for homestead exemptions

Applications in North Port up 18% over the past 5 years, chief deputy property appraiser reports

Brian Loughrey is the chief deputy property appraiser in Sarasota County. Image from his LinkedIn account

In unanimously approving their April 12 Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the Sarasota County Commission authorized one new employee for the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office, bringing the total number of full-time staff members to 68.

None of the board members commented on the request from the Chief Deputy Property Appraiser Brian Loughrey. Generally, unless a commissioner has a concern about a Consent Agenda item, none of them offers remarks on that portion of their regular meeting business.

The reason a new employee is needed, Loughrey wrote in a March 14 memo to County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, is to provide full-time service in the City of North Port.

“Our agency has experienced considerable growth in the number of homestead applications and customer service support for property owners,” Loughrey wrote. “The growth has created the need for additional full-time dedicated staffing, as we are experiencing a continued influx in the population served.”

He noted that the Property Appraiser’s Office has had a satellite facility “housed within North Port City Hall.” However, Loughrey continued, the goal is to ensure staff is available Monday through Friday “to provide essential property appraiser services for the public in and around the City of North Port.”

The number of improved residential buildings located within North Port “has increased by 15% in the last five years,” Loughrey pointed out. “In addition, exemption applications intake has increased 18% over the last 5 years.”

He further explained, “Due to the complexity of the exemption statutes and filing requirements, hiring temporary staff would not be a viable solution. The satellite office is scheduled to be a 2-person operation, with a requirement that each staff member maintains the necessary knowledge, skills, and ability to work independently and fully assist and support the public needs. Shifting staff from other locations is not a viable option,” he noted, “as the workloads have increased in the other locations as well.”

The expense of the new full-time employee can be absorbed in the Property Appraiser’s Office budget for this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, Loughrey wrote. However, the additional full-time salary of $45,000, “plus overhead,” will be needed from the 2023 fiscal year forward, he added.

The Property Appraiser’s Office has been holding office hours only on Wednesdays in Room 128A of the North Port City Hall. The hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Property Appraiser’s Office says. The North Port City Hall is located at 4970 City Hall Blvd. Image from Google Maps

The City of North Port says its population is “more than 77,000 residents,” making it the largest municipality in the county.

City-Data, which provides a variety of demographic information about municipalities, notes that North Port’s population has risen 210.2% since 2000. (City-Data says on its website, “By collecting and analyzing data from a variety of government and private sources, we’re able to create detailed, informative profiles for every city in the United States.”)

The value of property in the city of North Port grew 12.4% last year, as Loughrey noted in the state-mandated report that the Property Appraiser’s Office released before July 1, 2021. That jump was the highest year-over-year among all local governments in Sarasota County, the report showed.

North Port’s total property value was $5,746,178,030 at the time.

On March 30, when the county commissioners conducted their first budget workshop of the year, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis pointed out that the money from the county’s General Fund that is dedicated to the constitutional officers and other boards and agencies has continued to climb over the past decade. As commissioners have pointed out, state mandates have led to much of that increase.

This fiscal year, 58.1% of the General Fund budget is allocated to the constitutional officers and other boards and agencies, a slide showed. The Property Appraiser’s Office is among that group.

The General Fund’s biggest source of income is property tax revenue.