The Great Recession may be starting to ebb, but Pasco County budget writers shouldn't expect a windfall when developing a spending plan for the next fiscal year.
Estimates released Tuesday from the Pasco Property Appraiser's Office show the county with a tax base valued at nearly $19.3 billion, about $50 million more than last year. That represents an increase of about a quarter of a percent.
"There's nothing to get excited about anywhere," Property Appraiser Mike Wells said. "But at least Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes are on the plus side."
Dragging down the overall value was west Pasco, especially the older neighborhoods.
The city of New Port Richey, which lost its biggest taxpayer, Community Hospital, when it moved and changed its name to Medical Center of Trinity in 2012, took the biggest hit, with overall values plunging 4.2 percent.
Wells said the decrease reflects the hospital property devaluation as well as commercial properties that lost value on U.S. 19.
Port Richey also lost about 2.5 percent of its value from last year, while Zephyrhills lost slightly more than 2 percent.
"It's kind of early in the process to know all the numbers yet," Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill said. He said he is still waiting on state estimates before knowing how the loss in value will affect the budget.
"It's a smaller decrease than last year," which was 3.6 percent, he said of the back-to-back declines. "We were able to provide a balanced budget last year and will certainly do the same this year."
O'Neill said friends in the real estate business are reporting that higher priced homes are selling better than before the housing bust, while those on the lower end continue to lag. He said city efforts to demolish slums and redevelop blighted areas will pay off soon.
Pasco County budget director Chris Dorsey said the figures were what budget writers expected. Earlier figures from the state had predicted a possible increase of up to 2.5 percent, but Dorsey told county commissioners that was optimistic.
He said Wednesday that budget writers were still crunching the numbers and had not determined what effect the flat values might have on next year's budget, which begins Oct. 1.
Revenues are expected to be more flush in the rest of the Tampa Bay area, with Hillsborough and Pinellas expected to record increases of about 3 percent, thanks to more robust home sales.
Hernando County had not released estimates as of Wednesday.
Property values play a major role in determining whether governments raise or lower tax rates, which are called millage rates. Those rates typically get approved in September, right before the new fiscal year begins.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Ted Schrader said he had hoped for more of an increase given the more positive economic news lately.
"I'm a little disappointed," he said. However, he recognized that the figures reflect the 2012 economy. "I expect it to be better next year," he said.
So does Wells. He said short sales and foreclosures have gotten through the system, and some of those might be resold when investors can make money off them.
"I think it's fair to say we are at rock bottom now," he said.
Final figures will be out by July 1.