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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Hernando’s property values increase for first time in seven years


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— In 2007, Nancy Pelosi made history by becoming the first female speaker of the House. That same year, Steve Jobs, then-CEO of Apple Inc., introduced the iPhone to consumers.

Locally, 2007 was the last year that Hernando County saw in increase in property values. The next seven years would see an annual decline in values, causing government budget leaders headaches as they tried to juggle numbers to balance a budget.

The lengthy decline ended this year. The property appraiser released preliminary figures this week showing Hernando County’s taxable value is $7.112 billion, up 2.32 percent from last year.

George Zoettlein, assistant county administrator of budget and business development, said the increase in values translates to an additional $1.1 million in general fund revenue for Hernando County, providing that fund’s millage rate of 6.8669 remains unchanged.

After seven years of declining values, this is welcome news, Zoettlein said.

“This just means that we’ve probably bottomed out and the economy is starting to come back,” he said.

Taxable value drops ranged from 9.75 percent in 2008 to 6.06 percent in 2012. County officials attribute much of the decrease to the collapse of the housing industry.

Kevin Johnston, chief deputy of valuation and tax roll with the property appraiser’s office, said the upturn is not surprising, given the increase in construction. People just have to drive down State Road 50 and see the new restaurants, movie theater, and shopping centers either already open or on the way, he said

And while residential construction is still not where it should be, an uptick is expected from that area in the near future, said Johnston, adding that the numbers reflect previous year’s property values.

Zoettlein will use these numbers to prepare a balanced budget for county commissioners by July 15.

The city of Brooksville’s property values increased about 2.7 percent, from $371 million to $381 million.

Hernando commissioner Dave Russell said the board must still deal with an increase in expenses headed into the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

“We’re emerging but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Russell said the five elected constitutional officers’ submitted budgets that, when taken as a whole, exceed last year.

The budget of Sheriff Al Nienhuis, representing the largest of the constitutionals, asks for an increase of $1.6 million (or 4 percent) compared to last year.

Government department heads’ budgets are coming in less than last year, he said.

“It’s been a tough seven years, it really has,” Russell said. “(But) there is some work to be done.”

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