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Property values show increase

Both the city of Brooksville and Hernando County got good news from the county property appraiser's office this week:

The total assessed value of their taxable property increased considerably this year _ 5.3 percent in the county and 6.2 percent in the city.

"When I saw the numbers, I was pleasantly surprised," said Brooksville Finance Director Lee Huffstutler.

The news was particularly welcome because the value of the city's taxable property declined about $400,000 last year. This year, it has increased by nearly $12-million, from about $188-million, to just less than $199-million.

The increase will also be of considerable help to the county, but it will not bail it out of the widely reported $5.4-million shortfall that county Budget Director Bob Simpson has forecasted for the upcoming fiscal year.

And it will not affect the referendum to decide whether the county will increase the sales tax by 1 cent, Simpson said.

If voters approve the measure, it would raise an estimated $5.6-million annually, most of it for capital improvements, he said. The county stands to receive an additional $500,000 from the increase in taxable property value, and that money will go for operating expenses.

In fact, Simpson said, the increase in assessed value does not change the shortfall that he forecasted at a County Commission meeting in January.

When he came up with that estimate, he overstated the county's share of state sales tax and other state and federal taxes by about $500,000.

So he still wants county department heads and constitutional officers to expect no increase in operating expenses.

"Basically, we're going to have to operate at status quo," he said.

The city should get slightly less than $100,000 out of its increase in taxable property value. Huffstutler said it is too early in the budget process to decide what effect that might have. He is just now receiving tentative budgets from each of the departments.

He will present the figure to the City Council at its next meeting, on July 19. Council members will tentatively decide then whether to increase the city millage rate, which now stands at 8.2175 mills. A mill is equal to a dollar of tax for every $1,000 of assessed, non-exempt real property.

About half of the city's increase can be attributed to the building of the new Kmart store on the State Road 50 truck bypass and a new apartment complex, Villas of Shady Oaks, on S Main Street.

Tim Bargeron, the Hernando school district's finance director, said he had not had time to figure out the impact of the increase in property values on the county's public schools.

Property Appraiser Les Samples said the increase came despite the cap of 2.7 percent mandated by the state Save our Homes law. That cap applies to gross assessed value of a home. But individuals, especially those who own moderately priced houses, can see much larger increases in their tax bills.

For example, a 2.7 percent increase on a $40,000 home brings the assessed value to 41,080. If the $25,000 homestead exemption is subtracted, the taxable value increases from $15,000 to $16,080, a 7.2 percent increase.