After sharp drops last year in North Texas property values, a 1 percent overall gain across Tarrant County this year was greeted with optimism Friday by most local taxing entities.
Compared with the $5.5 billion loss in property values across Tarrant County last year, the overall gain of $1.2 billion for 2011 is seen as a substantial improvement, though some cities had significant declines again.
Some local officials said the rising values are evidence of the beginning of an economic recovery.
Communities and school districts had been awaiting the numbers released Friday.
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Cities and school districts will generally use the estimates to set tax rates and write budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.
Fort Worth's 2 percent increase from last year -- more than $789 million -- should help with a projected $30 million shortfall. The initial budget presentation to the City Council is scheduled for Aug. 9.
"We're extremely encouraged by the results," Fort Worth budget officer Horatio Porter said. "They have the potential to have a positive impact on our budget gap."
While residential real estate values dropped in parts of Fort Worth, Porter said, that was balanced by commercial development in some parts of the city.
"We did see quite a few accounts that had a reduction because of the economy," Porter said.
"But with commercial development, such as the build-out of several key projects in the West Seventh Street/Museum Place area, we were able to offset that."
Arlington, meanwhile, had an increase of 0.2 percent, neighboring Mansfield an increase of 2.5 percent.
But Arlington officials said that translates to nearly $1 million more in tax revenue than city officials had projected. That's good news for the City Council, which was working to eliminate a projected $1.25 million shortfall for the upcoming budget year.
"This would alleviate most of that," Budget Manager Mike Finley said.
The figures are based on the value of land, buildings, business inventories and mineral values as of Jan. 1. The growth is calculated on net taxable value, which reflects deductions for homestead exemptions, abatements and freeport exemptions for businesses.
Many entities gained or lost slightly, but there were exceptions.
In Northeast Tarrant County, the valuations were a mixed bag. Euless, for example, had a 4.8 percent increase, while values fell 0.9 percent in Hurst and 7.4 percent in Richland Hills.
"We'll just tighten our belt just a little bit more, but we'll make it work," said Richland Hills Mayor David Ragan, who was still reviewing the data late Friday. "I don't anticipate any change in our employment level."
Values increased about 5 percent in Saginaw and Roanoke and 3.2 percent in Haslet.
The small Eagle Mountain Lake community of Pelican Bay, which had the largest percentage increase last year, 22 percent, saw its fortunes turn dramatically this year with an 11.9 percent decrease
For school districts, the picture isn't as clear. While values rose in some area districts, most did not see a major boost, because of complex school funding formulas.
Essentially, most school districts have a set amount they receive per pupil in local property taxes and state funds. If local property taxes raise more money, the state's portion is less.
The Fort Worth district, for example, gained about $328 million, or 1.2 percent. But that will likely end up adding roughly $30,000 to a nearly $600 million budget.
"It's so minor that it's like a drop in the bucket," said Hank Johnson, chief of schools.
Tarrant County Chief Appraiser Jeff Law said there were around 73,000 protests this year, about the same as last year.
More than 20,000 were settled informally, but the rest were scheduled for hearings that will likely continue into September and possibly October. But Law said the appraisal district will provide a supplemental report to taxing entities Sept. 1 to help them set final budgets.
"It's possible there could be a little bit of an increase" when those values are updated again, Law said. "We've been very conservative in our estimates."
Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius said the overall values show signs of an economic recovery.
He said there are pockets of construction of homes, multifamily housing and commercial development nationwide.
"That's good news for everybody," Maenius said.
Staff writers Eva-Marie Ayala, Sandra Baker, Aman Batheja, Susan Schrock and Anna M. Tinsley contributed to this report.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698