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Hillsborough County property values plummet 16 percent, force more budget cuts

TAMPA — Property values in Hillsborough County plummeted last year by 16 percent, by far the largest decline in a generation.

The good news: Tax bills should go down next year, unless local governments raise tax rates to offset the drop in value.

But it also means those same governments will have to make sharp cuts in programs, which officials have been expecting.

The taxable value of homes and businesses, after exemptions, is expected to fall about 13 percent across the county, according to county property appraiser's figures released Wednesday.

Hillsborough County government alone is expecting to shed as many as 900 jobs as it seeks to cut about $110 million in spending compared to last year. County Administrator Pat Bean will submit her budget proposal to commissioners Wednesday.

"It's every bit as bad as I've been feeling about it," Bean said. "I've indicated to board members that it is, in my opinion, the worst experience I've had in my 32 years with the county as it relates to budget balancing."

The County Commission approves its budget in two-year cycles, and Bean said she has not yet determined how she will make cuts in the second year. Her staff predicts property tax revenue will fall another $56 million.

This is the second straight year of declining taxable property values, which fell 5 percent in 2007. Most of that decline was due to a new $25,000 homestead exemption.

"This is strictly value loss," said Tim Wilmath, the property appraiser's director of valuations, talking about this year's free fall.

The overall 16 percent decline means property values fell by $20 billion as of Jan. 1, compared with the same time last year.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian @sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough County property values plummet 16 percent, force more budget cuts 05/28/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009 11:02pm]
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