Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando sees highest increase in property values since real estate bust

BROOKSVILLE — Early estimates show that Hernando County property values have risen 6.5 percent over last year's finalized taxable values, according to Property Appraiser John Emerson.

This is the fourth consecutive year that values have jumped after the devastating real estate bust a decade ago, after which values sank for six years. This is the highest annual increase recorded since then.

"It's a good thing this year,'' Emerson said late last week after releasing what is known as the "good faith estimate" to local government entities. "Taxable values haven't gone up like that in a long time.''

County, city and school district officials count on the estimates as they work to prepare preliminary spending plans for 2017-18 budget year. Property taxes, which are based on taxable value, are a key component in determining the potential revenue needed to provide government services each year.

The good faith estimate sets the countywide taxable value at $8.03 billion, compared to last year's estimate of $7.45 billion.

When the estimate came out last year, Emerson's office was still engaged in valuation challenges, including a significant challenge from Cemex, the county's largest taxpayer. Once those challenges were completed, the real taxable value would be adjusted.

Estimates in late May and early June often change. Besides challenges, the early estimates do not include the value of new construction, and Emerson said that is approximately $110 million this year. On July 1, his office must release certified taxable values on which local governments then rely to finalize spending plans.

For Hernando County government, the estimate, including new construction, could bring another $3.7 million into county coffers, unless county commissioners choose to cut the current tax rate. That number considers that the county counts on getting only about 96 percent of the tax money it is owed.

"It looks good,'' said Pam Lee, county budget director.

Emerson noted that there is an increase in home construction in the county, which will help in future years. He said he recently drove around Sherman Hills, in eastern Hernando, where a number of homes are under construction. He said as more infrastructure is added, he expects to see more growth in areas around Ridge Manor.

Building permits are also reflecting the growth in activity, he said. Permits for single-family homes during the first five months of the current fiscal year total 259, compared to 186 during the first five months of 2015-16.

The County Commission will discuss the early budget information during a workshop planned for 9 a.m. Tuesday. That session will include presentations by the county departments, which have been asked to explain to commissioners every new position and significant change in spending plans, Lee said.

Commissioners will also hear presentations from the county's constitutional officers, including Sheriff Al Nienhuis. The sheriff's budget plan is expected to attract commissioners' attention after contentious negotiations over last year's proposal ended in a formal budget protest to the state by the sheriff, ultimately concluding with a settlement.

Taxable values also have increased by 4.4 percent in the city of Brooksville, to a total of $402 million, and by 8.1 percent for the Hernando School District, to a total of $9.17 billion. The taxable value is higher for schools than the county because the homestead exemption is lower.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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