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In Pasco, property values rise, but officials are wary of the impact of COVID-19

Taxable property values increased nearly 7½ percent, but the coronavirus brings other fiscal challenges to budget preparation for the coming fiscal year.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County’s taxable property values have had another healthy year of growth, increasing 7.44 percent, the county’s property appraiser reported late last week to local government leaders. The county is anticipating a total of $31.58 billion in taxable values.

The annual good faith estimate of value is an important early factor governments use to formulate their spending plan for the next fiscal year. But this year, appreciation for the growth is tempered with caution because of the sweeping economic impacts of the coronavirus.

For Billy Poe, Zephyrhills city manager, the news couldn’t come at a more welcome time. Just a day earlier, forecasts of other state revenue sources had come out for his city, and the impact of COVID-19 is going to take a bite out of his budget. Still, he hopes much of that can be offset by property value increases.

"This speaks to how much growth there is in Zephyrhills, but the pandemic hitting affects other revenue streams,'' Poe said. "Hopefully things will pick back up and this will have just been a blip on the radar.''

Zephyrhills had the highest property tax increase in the county at 7.94 percent, according to numbers released by Pasco property appraiser Gary Joiner.

Local governments expect to feel the pinch in sales tax and tourist tax revenues, fees paid by those who use park facilities or purchase other services through the county or cities. But property values that figure into property tax collections are based on calendar year 2019 — before the pandemic appeared.

While this year’s value estimate is down slightly from increased values in recent years, Joiner was encouraged. "It’s still a good year,'' he said. "Pasco is still continuing to grow, still issuing building permits. ... We just may be okay in this county.''

County administrator Dan Biles said all things will be considered as the new spending plan is developed.

"Every budget cycle comes with challenges, and this year is no exception,'' he said. "Part of our annual process is to build a budget with several options so once we have a final taxable value, we can simply apply the best plan.''

Biles noted that, while the tax values were lower than anticipated, "we will finalize a budget within the ad valorem revenue that will best meet the level of service our board and customers expect, without raising taxes or cutting services or staff.''

The Pasco County Commission began budget discussions several months ago, and more details are expected during their June 16 meeting, Biles said. The county’s formal public budget hearings will be September 8 and 21.