BROOKSVILLE - Just over half the property owners in Hernando County, or 53.24 percent, pay less than $148 a year in taxes to the county's general fund.
Factor in the number of property owners who pay less than $300 a year in taxes, and the number balloons to 71 percent, according to data from the Hernando County property appraiser.
Property Appraiser John Emerson said the numbers, using statistics from 2012, dispute the notion that local residents are overburdened with taxes.
"I don't consider people in this county as being taxed to death," Emerson said. "Property values are lower, the millage isn't any higher than surrounding counties."
The tax figures are based on a general fund millage rate of 5.9169 and does not differentiate between developed or undeveloped properties.
Property appraiser data show there are 115,613 total residential and commercial parcels in the county, with the majority of those (88 percent) residential.
Of those 115,613 parcels, there are 61,548 with a taxable value between $0 and $25,000 and whose owners pay - after exemptions - from $0 to $147.92.
Factor in another 20,619 parcels with a taxable value between $25,001 and $50,000, and the data shows 71 percent pay less than $300.
On the higher end, there are 21,851 parcels with a taxable value of $50,001 to $100,000 who pay between $295.85 to $591.69 in annual taxes.
The data shows there are 11,595 parcels valued from $100,001 and higher who pay $591.69 or more annually in taxes.
Homestead and military exemptions play a large role in computing how much people pay in taxes. For example, a person whose home is valued at $100,000 would have a taxable value of $50,000 because of the homestead exemption.
As long as all the exemptions total more than the taxable value, taxes are $0.
County Commissioner Diane Rowden referenced the recent data during Tuesday's discussion on setting a flat rate fire fee for the county.
Many residents in Spring Hill, who were merged into the countywide fire department, were resistant to the $171.44 fee, calling it exorbitant.
Others said paying what amounts to some $14 a month for fire services is fair and equitable.
But Rowden said everyone needs to pay their fair share.
"The numbers don't lie," said Rowden, who requested the statistics.
Rowden blamed the large differential on state legislators who created an inordinate number of exemptions. Now, a minority are paying most of the taxes in Hernando County and the majority are paying hardly anything or nothing for services, she said.
"Hernando County didn't create this," she said.
Emerson said there are signs the real estate market is picking up and taxable value could be higher next year. But how much of that optimism is wishful thinking or reality remains to be seen, he said.
"A lot will determine on how much the interest rate is for mortgages," he said.
Meanwhile, Assistant County Administrator of Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein said his proposed budget is due to county commissioners by Monday.
Zoettlein said the county is anticipating a $9.5 million shortfall, which includes the $2 million needed to fund libraries.
"There's really only two things they can do and that's reduce expenses or raise revenues or a combination of the two," Zoettlein said.