ST. PETERSBURG — The beach cities and towns that took a beating during the recession continue to lead Pinellas County's real estate recovery.
Taxable values in many beach havens are expected to increase by more than 7 percent in 2014, according to Property Appraiser Pam Dubov's annual estimate released Thursday.
Those increases helped the county's overall taxable property values rise by about 5.6 percent — the second straight year of increases in all of the county's 24 muncipalities.
The increases ranged from about 4 percent in Pinellas Park to more than 8 percent in Redington Beach. The city of St. Petersburg also had a strong showing, with a nearly 7 percent spike.
Countywide property values fell for five straight years from 2008 through 2012. Last year saw a modest increase of about 3 percent.
In that context, Dubov said, "This was a really good year."
The report highlights another sign of an improving real estate market: The amount of new construction on the 2014 tax roll estimates is $298 million, about a 40 percent increase from the prior year.
The perennial popularity of waterfront property is certainly a factor in the gains showed along the beaches, Dubov said. Those areas also have greater numbers of part-time residents who can't claim the $50,000 homestead exemption on assessed value.
St. Petersburg benefits from waterfront property, too, as well as large commercial parcels such as Tyrone Square Mall. Tangible property such as machinery and equipment used by the manufacturing sector helps boost the numbers.
The report serves as another barometer of the city's burgeoning downtown, Dubov said. In a special taxing district made up of the downtown core, taxable values increased more than 9 percent, and the value of new construction reached $19.3 million.
The increase in values was higher than St. Petersburg officials planned, so the city's projected budget deficit has shrunk from $4.15 million to $1.35 million, Mayor Rick Kriseman wrote in a memo to the City Council on Thursday.
Budget staffers hope to make other adjustments that could bring the budget "to an even healthier place," perhaps even into the black, said Ben Kirby, the mayor's spokesman.
"It's not time to break out the champagne just yet, but this is promising," Kirby said.
County budget staffers find themselves in the same happy place, tacking on roughly $1 million more to the general fund's projected budget surplus. That means commissioners will have a cushion of between $4 million and $5 million, said budget director Bill Berger said.
Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said Thursday's news was in line with city projections.
"We feel like we won't have to use reserves like we've done for the past two years," Horne said.
For property owners, rising values could mean bigger tax bills, but Dubov figures many residents with mortgages will feel relief.
"It might mean more to them than the bottom line of their tax bill to know that they're not as underwater as they were," she said.
Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.