For the first time since 2007, Pinellas County property values are climbing this year, led by beach towns that took a beating during the recession.
In havens of wealth that line the county's barrier islands, estimated home and property values are predicted to rise between 5 and nearly 8 percent in 2013. And countywide, real estate values are expected to increase in every city, including towns that are currently experiencing little growth.
In a report released last week, Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov estimated that overall, the county's taxable value would increase by about 3 percent this year.
For Pinellas officials, rising property values could provide a boost to the county's budget, but a 3 percent increase would likely not be enough to close current and future gaps.
"It's better news than if we were still in a decline, but we still have some big challenges ahead," said County Commissioner Ken Welch.
He said he it won't solve the $30 million deficit the county is facing over the next two years, and it doesn't pay for the $5 million the state is requiring the county to pay into the retirement system.
For the last five years, the county's overall taxable value has been falling, plummeting by almost 12 percent in 2009, 10 percent in 2010, and 5 percent in 2011. Last year, values dropped by about 2 percent, a figure many interpreted as a harbinger of stability and perhaps even rising property values.
This year, Dubov's estimate shows that small beach towns where real estate values are often volatile will see the highest property value jumps. In tiny Belleair Shore, she expects a 7.43 percent increase, in North Redington Beach, a 6.61 percent increase, and in Redington Beach, 5.71 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum, values in Gulfport are expected to increase by less than 1 percent.
In St. Petersburg, an estimated 3.74 percent increase in property values would translate into an additional $1.7 million in revenue, according to City Administrator Tish Elston.
"This growth accompanied by the current construction cranes and development proposals which have come before council create a sense of optimism … a welcome contrast with the past five years which reduced the city's property tax revenues by over $30 million," she wrote in an email.
Clearwater, with an estimated increase of 3.24 percent, is not far behind.
"In some cases, taxable values are going up more than we might expect in a normal year because of properties that are going through the foreclosure process," said Amanda Coffey, the deputy for government affairs for the property appraiser.
As people move out of these houses, they lose their homestead exemptions, she said, and the properties are taxed on their full value.
"We're still getting some of that extra value from that," she said.
Dubov has put property value growth in Tarpon Springs at just over 1 percent, less than City Manager Mark LeCouris was hoping for.
"It's on the low end, but it's a positive number and after these past years a positive number is a reason to rejoice," he said.
LeCouris said the city had expected growth between 1.5 and 2 percent, but the lower figure would not affect services or lead to major budget cuts.
"We might have to tighten up the belt in a few more places but I don't think it will cause a major effect," he said.
Staff writers Brittany Alana Davis, Mark Puente, and Keyonna Summers contributed to this story. Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] (727) 893-8779.