As budget planning ramps up for fiscal year 2020, Pasco County officials believe the county has bright economic prospects for the coming year.
“We’re now projecting for the fiscal 2020 budget an increase of 9.5 percent of countywide taxable assessed values. That is the same increase as we had in fiscal year 2019,” said Robert Goehig, budget director for Pasco County.
“This 9.5 percent increase is huge. It’s unprecedented. We haven’t seen increases like this, really, at all. At 9.5 percent increase of assessed value, that generates about an additional $18.5 million in property tax revenues,” the budget expert told the Pasco County Commission, during a workshop session on April 30.
He also noted that the expected rate of the increase for the coming year is the same as it was in 2008, before the Great Recession.
Unlike then, however, the underlying economy is much stronger, Goehig said.
“We feel we’re in a better position now than we were in 2008 because, in 2008, a lot of those home values were really hyper-inflated,” Goehig said.
“Those assessed values now are more based on reason, more based on the market supply and demand than they were 11 years ago. Plus, we’ve added $7 billion in new construction to the assessed value base since then,” the budget director said.
Paying close attention to the economy is important, he added, because it has an impact on the county’s operation.
“So, as the economy does well, people are out spending money. They’re investing in their businesses; they’re investing in their homes.
“This increases sales tax. People travel. That increases fuel tax, which allows us to provide the services that our customers have come to expect,” he said.
As the economy cools, however, the county is less able to meet its customers’ expectations, he said.
To stay on top of the economy, the county monitors all of the standard national, regional and state measures, such as inflation, unemployment and gross domestic product, he said.
It also considers building permit activity, half-cent sales tax revenues and the amount of trash taken to the county’s solid waste site, Goehig added. A decline in those three indicators serves as an early warning signal that the local economy is cooling, he explained.
Because of the current strength of these indicators, the county expects its economy to remain strong, whether or not other places experience a downturn, he said.
“Single-family residential permits is just going through the roof,” Goehig said, noting there were nearly 500 single-family housing permits issued in March.
He also noted that half-cent sales tax revenues are growing at a rate of about 4 percent a year.
Gearing up for the fiscal year 2020 budget, the county is using a new approach, the budget official said.
“In a change this year to our budget process, we’ve asked our department directors to give us all of the initiatives they believe they need to operate their business. In the past years, they’ve kind of self-selected and they haven’t brought forth things that they need because they thought, ‘I’m never getting money for this, why should I even bring it up?’
“We’ve asked them: Even if you think you’re not getting the money for it, bring it up and we’ll discuss it.
“As a result, we’ve gotten over a hundred business plan initiatives that address the general fund and the municipal services fund,” he said.
County Administrator Dan Biles said funding decisions on those priorities will be based on prioritizing the list, then matching it with available funds.
“I haven’t looked at the priority list yet,” Biles said, but he assured commissioners that staff will meet with them individually and they’ll have a chance to look at the entire list.
Much of the discussion about priorities that ultimately will make it into the budget is expected at a budget workshop set for June 25.
“That’s when we’ll dive into the details,” Biles said.
Published May 08, 2019