DADE CITY — At a recent Pasco County Commission meeting, county administrator Dan Biles proudly shared that single family home permit numbers were surpassing even those of Pasco’s mighty neighbor to the south, Hillsborough County.
But the real proof of sustained growth, especially after the impact of the pandemic on the local economy, came from Property Appraiser Mike Wells. According to preliminary estimates, Pasco County’s property values soared to $35.06 billion in 2020, an 11 percent jump from the 2019 estimates delivered at this time last year.
The estimated increase in value from 2018 to 2019 was just 7.44 percent.
“Pasco County continues to experience exceptional growth, and this year’s estimate reflects that trend and the changes we see in our communities every day,” Wells said.
He was optimistic about that growth continuing.
“Families are buying here, out-of-state residents are relocating here and businesses are seeking the space and opportunities Pasco has to offer within the Tampa Bay region,” Wells said. “The residential real estate market remains hot and new construction is on pace to surpass last year by a substantial margin.”
Much of that has been fueled by ongoing and new construction projects.
“Large-scale projects like Ridge Road and Moffit’s Pasco campus will continue to transform the landscape and drive development for years to come, and we’re preparing for that next chapter now,” said Wells, who is in his first year as property appraiser. Prior to that, he sat on the County Commission, which pushed such projects forward.
With the rising values comes increasing property tax revenues, an important factor as Pasco County and the cities of Pasco begin to build their 2021-22 spending plans over the next several months.
Also in the county’s inbox this week were budgets from several constitutional officers, including Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. He is seeking a 6 percent increase, or $9 million, to bring his agency’s annual budget to $158.6 million.
“The proposed budget by the sheriff includes pay increases for all members, part of a concerted effort to keep pay and benefits competitive with surrounding counties, and funding increases for initiatives designed to keep Pasco safe, even as it remains a growing community,” according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amanda Hunter.
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“These initiatives include additional detectives for the Behavioral Health Intervention Team, which seeks to address mental health concerns before they become law enforcement issues and working with community partners to reduce recidivism through expanded programs and opportunities in the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center,” Hunter said.
The increase also allowed for hiring 30 more deputies under a special grant. “All of these initiatives,” Hunter noted, “address Pasco’s growing population.”
County commissioners are expected to get a look at the budget preparation process during Tuesday’s regular meeting. Top county managers say the plan will be tempered with conservative spending.
“A hard lesson learned during the Great Recession was the best time to prepare for hard times is during the good times. In other words, to ensure long-term sustainability we should be judicious in taking on new spending,” said Robert Goehrig, Pasco’s budget director.
Biles supported that approach.
“The board has made it a priority the past few years to get the general fund back to a place of long-term fiscal sustainability, which has been recognized by the rating agencies, so the upcoming proposed budget will continue that trend,” Biles said.