By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
A month left until Christmas. Hard to believe, but that’s what we are down to as Thanksgiving goes by the boards and the gift-giving season is rapidly upon us.
A few little stocking-stuffer items that are already bringing good news: Recent reports and new projections show plenty of pluses for the South Shore area real estate market, and the Florida Department of Revenue is already prognosticating higher estimates than the original predictions for the transportation funds and school repairs/construction.
Last week, Florida Realtors gave an encore to September’s upward trending numbers. For Hillsborough County, overall sales and prices were up again in October. Real estate sales registered a 10.2 percent increase, the second largest increase in more than a year, and prices crept up 7 percent to $244,190, bringing smiles to the faces of home sellers. One Realtor told news media that currently people with a nest egg or some investment money are opting to purchase a home instead of putting their money in the stock market, with many of the older and experienced buyers using cash. The only negative observation by real estate market experts is that “rising mortgage rates are quickly eating in to what buyers can afford to pay.”
Home buyers have a special morsel in their real estate stocking, as Hillsborough is reporting close to a three-month supply of inventory with the supply of homes for sale at its highest point so far this year.
Florida’s booming economy is also reflected in increasing sales tax revenues, which will impact in a positive manner the transportation initiative and the school district referendum, both approved by Hillsborough voters Nov. 6.
Now, with a robust economy generating more spending, it is anticipated that the overall amount collected will also spike, according to Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson Tanya Arja. She added, “If we collect more revenue, we will assess immediate needs and we have the ability to move up projects.”
The updated revenue estimates could possibly mean $26 million more for transit needs than originally estimated for the 1 percent sales tax hike. By the same token the 0.5-percent sales tax earmarked for county schools now exceeds $13 million more than original estimates.
The transit revenue hike would create a big boost for the HART ( Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority) as it attempts to rapidly shore up bus frequency and purchase new buses and add new drivers.
For the schools, if the good news holds, problems with malfunctioning air conditioners and leaky roofs could be addressed sooner rather than later.