Hernando County taxable income to fall over sinkhole losses

by Michael Mosher on October 4, 2012

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BROOKSVILLE —

Hernando County taxpayers could be looking at a $3.2 million loss of ad valorem tax revenue next year if constitutional amendments pass, sinkhole claims continue to escalate and the projected 4 percent decrease in property values holds true.

Skyrocketing sinkhole claims alone could account for an estimated $132 million decrease in valuation, or a loss off $740 thousand in ad valorem taxes, according to the property appraiser’s office.

Preliminary calculations the first five months of 2012 show a decline in values of 4 percent, resulting in a loss of $285 million in valuation and a $1.6 million loss in ad valorem taxes, a department report shows.

John Emerson, chief deputy of the Hernando County Property Appraiser’s Office, said he plans to update the data on valuations and sinkhole claims in November, which should give county commissioners a clearer financial picture of the remainder of the year.

Because this information will be invaluable as Budget Manager George Zoettlein starts planning for next fiscal year, Emerson said he would regularly update the statistics after that.

“Even if it’s not written in stone yet, at least it gives you kind of a trend to work with as you’re trying to build these budgets,” said Emerson, who will take over as the county’s new property appraiser when Alvin Mazourek’s term ends in December.

Five of the constitutional amendments on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election would offer property tax breaks but could end up siphoning more money from county coffers.

If passed, most of these amendments would take effect next year and impact the 2013-14 budget.

Amendment 4 alone could cause Hernando County’s taxable value to decline by $113 million, according to the property appraiser’s statistics.

Meanwhile, from Jan. 1 through Sept. 19, the property appraiser’s office has received 1,571 reports of confirmed sinkholes.

That compares to 1,655 for all of 2011.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Kevin Johnston, valuation services supervisor with the Hernando County Property Appraiser’s Office. “Here we are nine months through the year and we’re almost where we are the whole year of 2011. I don’t see it getting any better.”

By contrast, his office had 877 sinkhole reports during 2010 and 402 in 2009.

Marilyn Pearson-Adams, president of Century 21 Alliance Realty, said the loss of tax revenue caused from sinkhole claims could be alleviated if experts in the field would stress the advantages of sinkhole-repaired homes.

“If the experts would come forward and tell us that a properly repaired sinkhole home has less than a 1 percent chance of having a recurrence, it becomes a commodity and would be worth as much, if not more, in value,” Pearson-Adams said.

County commissioners recently put to bed the 2012-13 fiscal year budget. Budget Manager George Zoettlein said he will waste no time in starting groundwork for the 2013-14 budget.

He was anticipating a $9 million shortfall heading into the next year.

Full article…here

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