TAMPA — Hillsborough County expects to see a third straight year of growth in real estate values, a clear sign of economic recovery.
Taxable property values increased between 2012 and 2013 by about 5.79 percent to a base of about $67.7 billion, according to the most recent weekly estimate from the county property appraiser's office.
That comes after a 5.29 percent jump last year and less than a 1 percent increase the year before that.
South Tampa and waterfront properties saw the most improvement in the new estimate.
"You're seeing the effects of an improving economy," said Bob Henriquez, Hillsborough's property appraiser. "A lot of this has to do with supply and demand. As folks feel more comfortable about spending money or have money to spend, unemployment goes down. More people are moving into the area. They're buying houses. People have better jobs."
Today marks the deadline that the preliminary estimates must be certified. Local governments and taxing authorities will use this first step in eventually determining the rates they will charge property owners this fall.
Although the last budget year was strong for Hillsborough real estate, Henriquez said he couldn't be sure what's driving it. It was not clear how much of the improvement was because of investor dollars, as opposed to residents buying homes they intended to live in.
In any case, with another $30 million in estimated property tax revenue coming, Hillsborough County budget director Tom Fesler outlined a few main areas for increased spending.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office will take in an extra $7 million, adding to its budget of about $380 million.
Another $3.5 million is being budgeted for the county's repair, renovation, replacement and maintenance fund. The county will also allot more for infrastructure and the fire department.
Hillsborough's increase in real estate value mirrors the economic recovery occurring in nearby counties. Pasco expects about a 3.75 percent increase in taxable value, which would mark its first year of increased revenue since the recession. Pinellas estimates a 5.6 percent jump, with all 24 municipalities showing two consecutive years of gains.
But just because property values are up does not mean no economic challenges are ahead.
In Tampa, for example, Mayor Bob Buckhorn expects to start the 2014-15 budget process with a revenue shortfall that could be $10 million to $15 million. Still, that is the smallest estimated shortfall in years, down from $34.5 million three years ago.
After the real estate market crashed, the city put off some spending for facility maintenance and vehicle and equipment replacement.
"Even though we're going through a recovery, we're still faced with the legacy of the recession," chief financial officer Sonya Little told the City Council at a recent budget workshop.
Times staff writers Richard Danielson, Lisa Buie and Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Julie Kliegman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401. Follow @jmkliegman on Twitter.