DADE CITY — Pasco County can expect to lose another $2.4 billion from its property tax rolls this year — an 11 percent drop from last year, according to early estimates released Friday by Property Appraiser Mike Wells.
That will make 2010 the third straight year of declining values. The taxable values used to determine the county's fire services budget and the Pasco School Board's budget also decreased by 11 percent.
But Wells said there appears to be a bright side to 2010: It won't be as bad as 2009, when values dropped 14.3 percent.
"It was much better than we anticipated," he said. "I think the worst is over."
Pasco had enjoyed more than 30 years of steady growth in the tax base, with values peaking at $30 billion in 2007. Then, in just three years, the tax base lost a third of its value.
This year, the county tax roll is around $20.6 billion. New construction is expected to add more than $329 million to the tax base.
Wells said residential values have "pretty well leveled off," while commercial properties continue to lag.
This year's projected revenue loss makes for an ugly 2010-11 budget season.
Pasco commissioners learned last week that a 10 percent drop in real estate values translates into a $14.6 million loss to the general fund and $2.5 million loss to the firefighting fund if they keep the same tax rates.
Last year, commissioners put off the toughest cuts — such as cutting the veterans program, further reducing library hours and eliminating Saturday bus service — by raising the property tax rate for the first time since 2001.
In the end, 26 county workers lost their jobs, and many others took pay cuts. Pasco Fire Rescue lost 33 vacant positions, which has meant the department is paying overtime to keep up its staffing levels.
County officials are embarking on a new way of crafting their budget that includes assigning numerical scores to hundreds of programs. The scoring covers everything from whether it's mandated by state law to how it contributes to long-term economic growth goals.
Commissioners could use those scores to value one program over another, though there's still room for residents and special interest groups to make their cases for funding.
Commissioners are holding a workshop Tuesday to discuss the new budget process and get an update on revenue projections.
The meeting will be held at Pasco-Hernando Community College's west campus, Room 151A, 10230 Ridge Road in New Port Richey. Discussions begin at 9 a.m.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.