BROOKSVILLE - The downturn in the economy means that more homeowners than ever before are bearing most of the tax burden in Hernando County.
The plethora of shuttered stores and businesses means the commercial share of that tax load is declining.
Assistant County Administrator of Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein said 69 percent of the taxable value in Hernando County is residential property, while 31 percent is commercial.
"That's not healthy," County Administrator Len Sossamon said in a recent county commission meeting.
The solution, he said, is obvious: "Recruit, recruit, recruit."
Property Appraiser John Emerson said he doesn't know what the ideal tax ratio should be between commercial and residential but 69-31 is not a good split.
Emerson said smaller mom-and-pop stores are nice but Hernando County needs more big-ticket, clean industry operations such as the Walmart Distribution Center.
There's a reason Hillsborough County approved an offer that would pay Amazon.com $225,000 in tax incentives to build a distribution center in Ruskin, he said.
"That's what we need," Emerson said.
Emerson said the county is headed in the right direction by trying to lure bigger manufacturers to the industrial park at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
But just because residents make up the biggest share of the tax load doesn't mean they are paying exorbitant rates. In fact, just over half of the property owners in Hernando County pay less than $148 a year in taxes to the general fund.
Factor in the number of property owners who pay less than $300 a year in general fund taxes, and the number balloons to 71 percent, according to data from the Hernando County property appraiser.
Emerson told Hernando Today recently that the numbers dispute the notion that local residents are overburdened with taxes. "I don't consider people in this county are being taxed to death," he said. "Property values are lower, the millage isn't any higher than surrounding counties."
Property appraiser data show there are 115,613 total residential and commercial parcels in the county, with the majority of those (88 percent) residential.
Meanwhile, the Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices should start hitting residents' mailboxes this week. Emerson said he is prepared for phone calls.
The notices list a property's current and prior year assessed value and any exemptions.