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Pasco’s tax base expected to increase, property appraiser says

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— New home construction in Central Pasco has helped fuel the first significant growth in the county’s tax roll in six years, according to Property Appraiser Mike Wells.

Wells released preliminary estimates showing the county’s tax roll grew last year by $727 million — a 4-percent increase. Property values in 2012 rose by about $50 million, which translated to a zero growth rate.

“The economic engine for the county is the new residential construction around Wiregrass and Land O’ Lakes,” Wells said. “These are not modest homes.”

This week Wells toured new housing developments at Long Lake Ranch and Estancia at Wiregrass, where Standard Pacific’s lowest-priced house starts at $244,000 and other models are priced at more than $500,000.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “If you turn off of Bruce B. Downs (Boulevard), there’s a roundabout with a fountain that had to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In my view, it’s being done properly — that’s where people want to live.”

New construction accounted for $367 million — slightly more than half of the overall increase. “It’s not bad,” Wells said. “When things were really cooking here, we were getting $1 billion a year in new construction.”

Pasco is trending in that direction again, Wells noted, as major commercial projects like the Wal-Mart supercenter in Wesley Chapel, Bonterra Parc and multifamily projects in Trinity come on the tax rolls. But what may be even more encouraging is that half of the increase countywide was a result of existing properties either stabilizing or increasing in value. Port Richey, New Port Richey and Zephyrhills — which all lost taxable value last year — will see either a zero growth or a slight increase in their 2013 numbers.

In contrast, Dade City’s tax base is expected to drop by about $2 million — it’s first decline since 2011.

St. Leo will lose 72 percent of its taxable value as a result of the Lake Jovita de-annexation.

Pasco Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said the tax roll estimate was a bit of welcome news as the county begins working on its 2015 budget.

“We’re bouncing back a bit slower than others, but it’s nice to see things moving in the right direction,” said Mariano, who added that he hopes to be able to increase funding in next year’s budget for parks, libraries and code enforcement.

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