DADE CITY — Pasco officials are moving forward with an increased property tax rate to offset yet another year of falling property values.
County commissioners had earlier tentatively approved a so-called "rolled-back" rate. But county budget chief Mike Nurrenbrock had to revise the rate after values dropped a worse-than-expected 5.9 percent.
Nurrenbrock presented the new rate to commissioners at their Tuesday meeting. Under his proposal, the rate for county government and fire service would go up 63 cents to $8.42 per every $1,000 of taxable value.
The rate is designed to collect roughly the same amount of taxes as the current year. Whether individual property owners pay higher taxes, though, depends on their specific situation.
Homeowners whose values fell by the countywide average would pay about the same total taxes as this year. Those whose values fell more could actually end up paying less in taxes.
"There will be a wide range," Nurrenbrock said, noting that properties that were improved in the past year would have higher values. "You're going to have a mixed bag."
Consider a $150,000 home with standard homestead exemptions that didn't lose value. The new rate would mean the owner would pay about $63 more in taxes. Under the earlier rate, the increase was $40.
Even with the higher rates, next year's budget will still contain cuts. The county could have to pay up to $2.7 million more for health insurance. It might also face $4.5 million more in Medicaid payments after state lawmakers this spring ordered counties to pay bills they had earlier disputed.
Pasco is one of 47 counties who joined a court challenge to the new Medicaid law.
When Nurrenbrock asked commissioners whether to build the higher tax rate into their budget proposal, he was largely met with silence. That means no commissioner voiced an objection to the rate.
Commissioner Ted Schrader offered the lone bit of feedback. "I'm okay with that," he said. "But I'm reserving the position to change that if we get some favorable rulings (in the Medicaid court challenge)."
County Administrator John Gallagher said the rate is a starting point for the proposed budget he will submit in July. Commissioners will haggle over the details in a series of budget workshops.
"You've got all summer to see what happens in the courts, to possibly lower the rate," he said.