Drop in taxable property values means tighter gov’t budgets

MANATEE — Property values countywide fell by an estimated 13.3 percent this year, reflecting the depressed real estate market and further putting a squeeze on government budget planners.

The preliminary taxable assessed value of all properties in Manatee is about $24.8 billion, down $3.8 billion from last year, according to preliminary figures from the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s office.

County government financial planners had estimated the drop would not be as severe.

“That’s slightly less than we planned,” said Jim Seuffert, director of the county Financial Management Department. “It means we’ll take in about $500,000 less in tax revenues than we estimated.”

Seuffert’s department had established an estimated property value last month prior to the official June 1 preliminary report after discussions with officials in the property appraiser’s office.

With those estimated figures, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker presented a budget message to the county commission outlining where he proposed to trim $27.8 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2011.

“This bit of news is a little more of the bad we’ve been seeing,” Hunzeker said, “but not cause for great concern.”

He said he will deal with the changes in revenue at the July 29 commission meeting when the budget numbers will be reconciled with the final revenue figures.

“Other revenues can go up and others can go down,” Hunzeker said.

He was pleased that the county’s estimate of assessed value was only off by 0.3 percent.

“We were almost correct,” Hunzeker said.

Seuffert said the final assessed property value figures from the property appraiser’s office will be released on July 1.

The proposed $469.1 million budget Hunzeker presented to the commissioners last week included the elimination of 53 employee positions, about $805,000 in trims to the parks and recreation department, about $1.4 million in cuts to public works projects and services, and reductions in almost every other county department.

Property taxes are about 35 percent of the total revenue for the county. If the commission does not raise last year’s base tax rate of $6.30 for every $1,000 in assessed value, the county will take in about $156.1 million.

Manatee County Property Appraiser Charlie Hackney said the assessed tax values are tied to the real estate market.

“We try to interpret what the market values are,” Hackney said.

He said the numbers from his office are based on the declining real estate market.

“And I would anticipate they will go down some more next year,” Hackney said.

Of the six municipalities in the county, Palmetto had the largest drop in property values, more than 18.8 percent, from last year.

That was about $175 million less that the $929.2 million in assessed property value last year.

“That’s more than we expected,” said City Clerk Jim Freeman, “Earlier in the year, we had estimated a drop between 9-12 percent.”

At the current tax rate of $4.67 per $1,000 in assessed property value, Freeman said revenue from property taxes will be about $770,000 less than this year’s $4.1 million.

He said property tax makes up 40 percent of the city’s budget, which is about $10.5 million this year.

“This creates some additional challenges going into the upcoming budget process,” Freeman said. “But we’ll just have to look harder for efficiency and cost cutting where we can.”

Palmetto commissioners will get a preliminary look at proposed budget numbers by the end of June, he said.

Bradenton, the largest city in the county, had a $412 million drop in property values, to $2.6 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

That’s about 13.4 percent less than last year’s $3 billion.

Anna Maria had the smallest change from last year’s taxable property values of $636 million.

Property values dropped by 4.13 percent, or about $26.2 million.