Pasco County property appraiser sees bullish outlook

With Pasco County continuing to experience massive ongoing growth and development, the county’s tax rolls are expected to increase at least 9 percent this year, according to Pasco County property appraiser Gary Joiner.

Preliminary figures reveal that the county has already exceeded its tax roll from 2008, Joiner said, referring to before the economy tanked.

Pasco County property appraiser Gary Joiner (File)

The property appraiser’s remarks came during a speaking engagement at the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce June breakfast meeting.

New residential and commercial construction make up the bulk of the increase, Joiner said, noting the county last year approved a record of more than 50,000 permits.

The taxable value of homesteaded properties will not increase by more than 1.9 percent this year, Joiner added.

“The great thing about that is, your home values aren’t outrageous, where they were in 2008. You’re not paying twice as much in taxes as you were in 2008,” Joiner said.

Plus, the county’s growth is likely to continue, he said.

Joiner expects Pasco to become Florida’s 10th largest county within the next 18 months, moving up a notch from its current ranking of the state’s 11th largest county.

“We’ve always been known as a bedroom community and ‘Little Pasco.’ Well, it’s not ‘Little Pasco’ anymore,” said Joiner, who grew up and lives in New Port Richey.

While growth can be a “great thing” for the county’s economy, it’s important for affordable housing and infrastructure to keep up, Joiner said.

He put it like this: “We’ve got to do it the right way, and we’ve also got to build roads and infrastructure way before we put a subdivision in. I think that’s where we lack. I think we’re 20 years behind in that. We’ve got to work harder on that.”

He continued, “I hate to see where some of the subdivisions are going, being where we were kids we hunted and fished there. You hate to see them tore up and these large oak trees taken down that you’ll never see again.”

Also on the subject of the county’s tax rolls, Joiner mentioned his office has made an effort to go after various forms of fraud, such as homestead fraud and agriculture fraud.

Joiner said the office has put more than $60 million in taxable value back on the county’s tax rolls since he took over in early 2017, including collecting nearly $1 million in back taxes.

“We’ve had our fair share (of fraud),” Joiner said.

Joiner also told the audience that the property appraiser’s office recently replaced its mainframe computing system and has upgraded to a more user-friendly website.

“We’re just working hard for you, trying to make a difference,” Joiner said. “We’ve tried to change a lot of things since I’ve gotten there — staff wise, productive wise, saving money.”

Joiner also touched on the county’s ongoing lawsuit with Pinellas County, where Pinellas has refused to pay property taxes on the 12,400 acres on the Cross Bar and Al Ranch property it owns north of State Road 52 and east of U.S. 41 in Central Pasco.

Joiner explained, last year alone, Pinellas made more than $2 million on that property from timber and pine straw harvesting, and therefore owes Pasco about $200,000 in taxes.

The Second District Court of Appeal recently sided with Pasco in the property tax dispute after it lost in the lower court. The issue is now likely to wind up in the Florida Supreme Court.

“We’re very confident we’re going to get it,” Joiner said. “It’s not fair that every person in this room, and every person around here has to pay (taxes), and yet they (Pinellas County) think they’re exempt.”

In an action related to that lawsuit, the Pasco County Commission voted on June 4 to send a letter to the Pinellas County Commission, urging them to drop its legal action. In essence, Pasco commissioners said it is only fair that Pinellas pay its taxes, just like other property owners.

B.C. Manion contributed to this report.

Published June 12, 2019

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