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Property values listed by Pasco candidate draw scrutiny

WESLEY CHAPEL — On paper, Ken Littlefield has pulled off an unusual feat in a real estate downturn: He lives in a house worth more than he paid for it two years ago — and 50 percent more than its taxable value.

Littlefield, a Republican who qualified this week to run for the Pasco County commission's District 2 seat, says in his financial disclosure reports that his and his wife's Seven Oaks home has a value of $189,000.

That's more than the $145,000 he paid for it in 2008 and more than the $125,514 market value assigned by Property Appraiser Mike Wells.

Littlefield also values his Tallahassee condo at $199,000 — significantly higher than the $166,000 he paid for it in 2007 and the $94,050 market value provided by the Leon County appraiser.

So how did he come up with those higher figures? Littlefield said he went with the original asking prices on both properties.

"I'm not sure it's worth that now," he said. "I think they can be estimates. That's what it's worth to me."

Littlefield, a former state legislator, is stepping down July 1 from his position as executive director of the Tallahassee-based Florida Statewide Advocacy Council, a state position that pays nearly $100,000 a year.

His two properties have mortgages attached to them: $128,000 for the Seven Oaks home and $151,000 for the Tallahassee condo.

Go with the two county appraisers' values, and Littlefield faces the same problem as many other Floridians: He's underwater on his properties.

Littlefield said he doesn't know if that's the case or not, but said he had no intention of trying to inflate the value.

"I don't think there's any embarrassment that would go with being upside down on the mortgage," he said.

With his investments, retirement fund and other assets, Littlefield's net worth as of December 2009 was $465,000, according to his report.

The Florida Commission on Ethics, which oversees the financial disclosure reports, says that candidates should value real estate "at its market value for tax purposes, unless a more accurate appraisal of its fair market value is available."

But commission spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman said state officials do not audit the reports for accuracy. She said the commission investigates only if someone files a complaint.

Littlefield's Republican opponent, incumbent Pat Mulieri, assigned a lower value to her primary residence than did the property appraiser, $200,000 vs. $220,246.

Commissioner Michael Cox, a Democrat who faces re-election in his district, used the property appraiser's value on his home, $319,060, in his financial disclosure report. "I've done that every year," he said. "I don't know how else to value it."

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Property values listed by Pasco candidate draw scrutiny 06/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 17, 2010 9:07pm]
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