NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's tax roll grew by more than 5 percent in 2016, but it's a figure that likely would require local government budget writers to trim proposed spending requests.
Figures released Tuesday by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner showed Pasco County's preliminary property tax roll at $24.24 billion, a $1.3 billion increase, with a little more than half of the growth, $693.5 million, attributed to new construction.
Joiner said the increase is 5.75 percent over the tax rolls at the start of the Oct. 1, 2016, fiscal year. Pasco County budget managers, however, are figuring the increase at 5.38 percent over the numbers from July 1, 2016. The statistics are different because the October numbers reflect actions by the Value Adjustment Board, which can lower property values if owners appeal successfully.
If the county maintains its current tax rates, the higher property values will generate $6.7 million in new revenue for the county's general fund and $2.2 million for the fire district.
Those numbers would have been welcomed just a few years ago, but now aren't going to match the spending requests the county already has received.
"I thought it was going to be higher, quite honestly,'' said County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. "We're going to have to look very closely at the priorities and stick with the needs, not the wants. That's quite obvious.''
Sheriff Chris Nocco already has asked for a nearly $8.2 million increase in his budget to pay for the final installment of a three-year payroll increase and for new positions and operating expenses.
Likewise, earlier this month, commissioners heard budget requests from their own staff to: expand library operating hours, at a cost of nearly $1 million over three years; spend $735,000 to begin a new bus route in Shady Hills; add ambulance service in Lacoochee and in west Pasco at a cost of almost $1.3 million, and several other initiatives. Meanwhile, Commissioner Jack Mariano again sought to eliminate fees for using county parks, which would cost $322,000.
"It's going to be a tough budget year,'' Mariano said Tuesday, particularly with a 2018 voter referendum looming to increase the homestead exemption statewide. "Everything's on the table, but this will be a very difficult time to figure out what to do.''
A potential bright spot could be the most recent history in calculating property tax rolls. A year ago, now retired Property Appraiser Mike Wells announced a preliminary growth rate of 5.2 percent, but the figure jumped to 7.2 percent by July, based on upward adjustment to land values, newly constructed high-end homes and tangible property owned by businesses. The change meant an unexpected windfall of $1.8 million to the county's general fund.
Joiner said Tuesday the final figure is expected to be higher, which brought some relief to elected officials.
"We know the July numbers always come back better,'' said Nocco. "From our standpoint, we're focused on public safety. We also know this is a process, and we're going to work with the commissioners and the new county administrator to be realistic also.''
Commissioners are scheduled to hold a budget workshop June 13.
Joiner also released the preliminary tax rolls for other government agencies and their percentage increase: Pasco School Board, $26.77 billion, up 5.94 percent; Dade City, $272 million, up 0.39 percent; New Port Richey, $523.49 million, up 1.79 percent; Port Richey, $258.8 million, up 0.65 percent; San Antonio, $59 million, up 4.69 percent; St. Leo, $9.55 million, up 4.16 percent, and Zephyrhills, $629 million, up 0.94 percent.