Pasco County’s tax rolls grew by about $50 million last year but that translates to a zero percent growth rate for the overall $21 billion tax base.
Property Appraiser Mike Wells said it’s the first time in five years the county’s tax roll hasn’t decreased, but it’s a far cry from the 2 percent increase state officials had projected.
Even the opening of the $150 million Florida Hospital complex at Wiregrass Ranch had a negligible impact because as a part of the Adventist Health System it is a nonprofit hospital and tax-exempt.
“The thing that’s interesting is that the middle part of the county, Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel, is showing improvement,” Wells said. “It’s the big housing developments in West Pasco, the older ones, going down. So any growth we’re seeing is being neutralized.”
Those trends are reflected in Wells’ estimates for the cities of Port Richey and New Port Richey, which were down $7 million and $21 million, respectively. Zephyrhills also lost about $12 million in property value, while Dade City gained just a few hundred thousand dollars in value.
The one bright spot could be found in tiny San Antonio, which saw a 6.5 percent increase in its total tax base after two competing dollar stores opened across from each other on State Road 52.
“It doesn’t take much in a small town like that to make a big difference,” Wells said.
Chris Dorsey, Pasco County’s budget director, said his office has been preparing for a zero-growth tax base, so the estimate shouldn’t create too many problems for the county budget.
“We saw the state estimates, but we didn’t think it was going to be 2 percent,” Dorsey said.
County commissioners have asked Dorsey to bring them a budget that includes pay raises for county employees who have gone six years without a raise.
Wells said he doesn’t spend a lot of time analyzing the numbers. “Other people do that,” he said. “Our office just tries to make sure they’re accurate.”
But he does occasionally reflect on the peaks and valleys in the tax base since he took office in 1997, when it was below $8 billion countywide. The values topped at $30 billion a decade later at the height of the real estate boom.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Wells said. “A lot of people have made money. A lot of people have lost money.”