tampabay.com

Property values rise by more than 33%

Citrus Springs is the community with the highest increase for taxable property in the county: 95.54%.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published July 1, 2006


INVERNESS - The value of taxable property in Citrus jumped more than 33 percent to $11.6-billion in the past year, Property Appraiser Melanie Hensley said Friday.

That's the largest increase ever - and a higher number than Hensley expected.

The number is important to local taxpayers because it's the figure that government agencies use when determining property taxes that residents and businesses must pay.

For Hensley and other observers of the Citrus housing market, the 33.38 percent increase is also a good indicator of where things stand.

"It tells me that the real estate market in 2005 was extremely busy," Hensley said. "In 2006, although we're not really seeing the sale prices dropping very much, we are seeing a slower pace of sales."

Hensley delivered the certified tax rolls to the county's taxing authorities this week. Now they will use the numbers she provided to balance budgets and determine proposed property tax rates.

Though the total taxable value statistics are most staggering, a more detailed breakdown of Hensley's numbers reveals other trends in the county.

Citrus Springs saw the highest increase in taxable value. Property values there increased 95.54 percent from $521-million in 2004 to $1.02-billion in 2005.

Sugarmill Woods saw an increase of 45.79 percent and Beverly Hills an increase of 25.39 percent. Values in Crystal River increased by 24.94 percent, while they increased by 30.34 percent in Inverness.

Progress Energy's property makes up 15.38 percent of the tax roll. That portion is significantly less than in years past, Hensley said, because other property values in the county have increased so much.

Hensley also said more than $2.5-billion in property value was shielded from taxation because of Save Our Homes last year.

Under the law, taxable values of homesteaded properties can rise only as fast as inflation, or 3 percent, whichever is lower.

In 2004, that number was nearly $1.3-billion. In 2003, it was slightly more than $500,000, she said.

In 2004, taxable property values across the county increased by a record 22.3 percent to $8.7-billion.

The increase yielded a $3.3-million surplus once county officials balanced the budget.

The County Commission voted 3-2 to return that surplus to taxpayers in the form of a lower property tax rate, decreasing it from 8.5553 mills to 8.145 mills.

One mill equals $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt real property.

That means that the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 who takes the standard $25,000 homestead exemption paid $610.87 in taxes to the County Commission with last year's rate.

Citrus taxpayers also pay property taxes to a variety of other taxing authorities - including city governments, schools, water districts and municipal services benefit units, depending on where they own property.

County Commission Chairman Gary Bartell was surprised to learn of this year's record figure Friday.

"Wow. That's a huge increase," he said after being told the latest statistics.

"The increased services of course need to be met, but ... that's a windfall," he said. "The majority of that needs to go back to the taxpayers."

The county is slated to announce its proposed budget in mid July. County commissioners will discuss it for the first time at a meeting at 9 a.m. July 26 in Room 166 of the Lecanto Government Building, 3600 W Sovereign Path.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 860-7309.