BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's property values continue to plummet, with the latest figures from the property appraiser's office showing a 12.3 percent drop over last year.
Taxable value has fallen to just over $9 billion, down from last year's $10.3 billion, Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek's office said Wednesday.
"This doesn't come as a great surprise,'' said County Commission Chairman Dave Russell. "It's not welcome, but we did anticipate it.''
County officials have been expecting property tax revenues to be about $10.5 million short for next year's general fund, an amount that anticipated values falling faster than an estimate in March.
On Wednesday, Russell confirmed that the actual shortfall could be as high as $11 million.
"It just creates that much more urgency in the budget-cutting process,'' Russell said.
Mazourek's figures show the reduction in property values is even deeper than last year's drop. Values from 2007 to 2008 fell 9.75 percent, the first time in years that values had fallen.
The numbers also reflect just how slow the home building slow-down has become. He reported $127 million in new taxable value in 2009, down from $398 million in 2008 and $703 million in 2007.
Mazourek said the latest numbers came to light as his staff prepared the upcoming tax rolls. "The numbers, as we worked them, they just got worse and worse and worse,'' he said.
The biggest hits were in vacant residential properties, which had risen so high in value during the boom years. There is not much demand for them either. "Very, very few permits were really issued,'' he said.
Building permits fell from 67 in April 2007 to 42 in April 2008 to 29 this April. The average permit pulled was for a home valued at $90,000, lower than last year's average.
Mazourek said the numbers seem to fluctuate from month to month. "It's been a very interesting ride,'' he said.
One new factor in the values was that the state Department of Revenue told property appraisers that, with so few sales available to determine property values, appraisers could consider foreclosure and short sales into their formula if research showed the transactions were at arm's length.
Mazourek said that hasn't happened before and his staff did consider such sales as they have been building the tax rolls.
"In some aspect, that is what the market says'' in such a depressed economy, he said. "Everything leads to the decline in values.''
Mazourek's office will present its certified tax values to the county and other taxing authorities by July 1.
On Tuesday, commissioners grappled with a variety of budget-related issues including a presentation by Sheriff Richard Nugent, who detailed cuts he might have to make if forced to reduce his $33 million budget by the $4. 2 million suggested by the county administration.
Commissioners also agreed to freeze wages for county staff and look at furloughs, staff reductions, shorter work hours and another round of early leave offerings to reduce payroll costs.
"This is no fun for anybody. This is something new for most of us,'' Russell said.
He said there is plenty more to be done to make the budget balance but that "there are going to be some reserves involved in lessening this impact.''
He said he realizes that using reserves "is only going to prolong the inevitable,'' but the hope is that the county will begin to recover in a couple of years when the economy does.
"The mission here is to preserve your core mission and your base,'' Russell said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.