During the recent marathon Pasco County Commission budget hearing, officials were flooded with stories highlighting the financial challenges faced by local residents, particularly those on fixed incomes, due to rising costs.
After extensive deliberation to find budget cuts and offer some relief, commissioners settled on a slightly reduced final tax rate. They also revisited the idea of increasing the homestead exemption for senior citizens. Many neighboring counties have already approved this tax relief measure.
This week, the commission approved moving forward with the plan. They scheduled a public hearing in early December. The hearing is to formalize an expansion of the exemption for permanent Pasco residents aged 65 and older. To qualify, their annual income must be below $35,167, although Pasco commissioners chose the maximum exemption amount of $50,000.
This means that the county would reduce the estimated value of a primary residence by that amount when calculating the tax bill. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have similar programs, with Pinellas capping the exemption at $20,000.
Commissioner Seth Weighman asked if they could adjust the exemption amount in the future if financial conditions change. Then, County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder confirmed they could but cautioned about potential political consequences. Property Appraiser Mike Wells Jr. expressed support for the exemption and committed to assisting with the necessary paperwork, though it would require additional resources.
County Administrator Mike Carballa estimated that the county would lose about $3 million annually in general fund revenue once the new exemption was approved.
Tax collector Mike Fasano also endorsed the new exemption. During the meeting, he sought permission to distribute unspent funds to constitutional offices that lost funding when the commission granted a small tax rate decrease in September. Commissioners unanimously agreed to allocate the extra funds from Fasano’s office to these constitutional offices.