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Hillsborough, Tampa property values drop

TAMPA — For the first time in 16 years, the value of taxable property in Tampa and Hillsborough County has gone down.

Preliminary figures from the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office show a 3 percent drop in Tampa from 2007 to 2008.

That's compared to double digit increases in the past four years, topped by a 21 percent boost in Tampa in 2006.

Hillsborough County experienced a 6.2 percent decline.

The office has records dating to 1974. Until this year, the only drop during that time was in 1992, when values declined by 2 percent.

"In my entire career here, which is now over 31 years, I've never seen anything like this," said Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean.

Bean said reductions in property values will not simply force trimming, but likely a wholesale reshaping of county government. Her budget staff is in the process of crafting a spending plan for next year, and she said it is likely to include more layoffs and an end to some programs.

Tax reform and a tanking residential real estate market combined to cause the decline, said Tim Wilmath, director of valuation for the property appraiser.

Florida voters approved changes in property tax rules in January.

"The values would have gone up a little bit if it had not been for Amendment 1," Wilmath said.

The amendment increased the homestead exemption, made some benefits of the Save Our Homes cap portable and created a new tangible personal property tax exemption.

The new, larger homestead exemptions reduced Tampa's taxable values by $1.3-billion. The tangible property exemption cost $198-million, and portability reduced values by $50-million.

The slow, deflating real estate market also contributed to the decline.

Without Amendment 1, taxable property value in Tampa would have increased by a modest 3 percent, Wilmath said.

Tampa and Hillsborough County fared better than Pinellas County, where the value of taxable property dropped 8 percent from 2007 to 2008. St. Petersburg's value dropped 5.6 percent.

Temple Terrace has been hit with a 5 percent decrease and Plant City with a 4.6 percent drop.

Hillsborough County's taxable value in 2007 was $87.7-billion. Taxable value in 2008 is projected to be $82.2-billion.

Tampa's taxable value in 2007 was $29.6-billion. The projected value for 2008 is $28.7-billion.

That means property tax revenues to the city will drop from $161.6-million to $155.8-million.

Tampa officials had been assuming they would lose $3-million in property tax revenue and need to cut $17-million from next year's projected budget.

The news from the property appraiser increases necessary cuts to at least $19-million.

City finance director Bonnie Wise said she's still waiting for more figures to determine the final effect on the budget. "We're also seeing sales tax revenues deteriorating," she said.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said she may dip into reserves to help cover the shortfall. "The problem with using reserves is it's one time," she said. "We need something lasting."

More layoffs are possible, she said. "I don't think it's going to be as far reaching as last year," she added.

In June, Iorio eliminated about 120 full-time positions after property tax reform mandated by the Legislature forced her to cut $20-million from the budget. About half the people affected ended up with other city jobs.

In November, Iorio unveiled a plan to save $3.4-million next year by making technological improvements and laying off about 100 employees, mostly in janitorial and security, and contracting their work to private companies.

Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Hillsborough, Tampa property values drop 04/16/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 10:51am]
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