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Hernando ponders what to do with unexpected tax windfall

BROOKSVILLE — The close of the fiscal year last week brought an unexpected surprise to Hernando County officials on Friday.

When the final tally of the county's taxable value arrived, it showed values that would generate approximately $1.39 million more for the general fund or $1.77 million for all funds than was originally expected.

While the additional revenue could be seen as giving the county a leg up on dealing with what is expected to be a revenue shortfall between $5 million and $7 million or more next year, there is another possibility.

When commissioners gather in an emergency meeting today, they will discuss whether to allow the property tax rate set last month to stay or to adopt a slightly lower rate.

The unusual question arises because when the taxable property value increases or decreases by more than 1 percent from the initial estimate, counties, cities, school districts and water management districts are allowed to adjust taxing rates accordingly.

Almost all of the county taxing authorities have seen property values increase by more than 3 percent from the first estimate in July.

If the county keeps the money that would be generated from the higher property values, it could help with next year's expected financial hardships, said commission Chairman John Druzbick.

If the commissioners instead want to lower the tax rate, it would be about a 0.2 mill reduction. For the owner of a home assessed at $150,000 with the $50,000 homestead exemption, that would mean a property tax savings of about $20.

The adjustment rule allows a county or other taxing authority only three days to decide what to do, and the county's decision is due at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek noted the tax roll isn't final until adjustments, if any, are made to property values by the Value Adjustment Board early next year. He warned there are a number of lawsuits and legal challenges by mining interests, which have challenged the value placed on their equipment affected by the stagnant construction industry.

Mazourek has warned the commission before that if those challenges go badly, the county could lose $1 million or more in tax revenues.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando ponders what to do with unexpected tax windfall 10/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 4, 2010 10:00pm]
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