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For Pasco County school, less Penny tax funds to go around

LAND O'LAKES — The Pasco County School District's income from the Penny for Pasco sales tax, approved in 2004, hasn't been the same since the first two years of collections.

Single-month revenue saw its high point in December 2005, at $1.48 million. The following year saw the tax money peak at $14.44 million.

Since then, the annual revenue has declined to a point where the district's chief financial officer, Olga Swinson, told the School Board on Tuesday that she is "hoping" that the district will bring in the $12 million she budgeted for the 2009 calendar year.

Things haven't looked good. Through October, the district had collected just $7.9 million, and October marked the single lowest month for collections of the Penny for Pasco: $717,626.

November showed some signs of life, with an increase to almost the same amount as November 2008.

"The positive point is, we're still collecting money," construction department accountant Mike Williams told the board.

The upshot, though, is that there's little money available for any additional construction and maintenance projects that the district has in its sights.

The majority of the new schools and additions promised with the Penny for Pasco are either complete or in the works. But the remainder of the tax revenue is dedicated to repaying the debt incurred when the district bonded the anticipated income.

"I don't see much gap to do additional projects," Swinson told the board.

Gary Evans, a member of the Penny for Pasco committee, advised the board to begin putting together a list of needs in case the district decides to seek a sales tax renewal in 2014-15. He suggested that school technology be in the mix.

School Board chairman Allen Altman agreed, noting that several other items also are needed, such as new kitchens for Schrader and Lacoochee elementary schools.

"It's important for the public to know we still have issues like that to deal with," Altman said.

The Penny for Pasco oversight committee plans to make public presentations in the coming months about how the current tax money has been spent. The projects have included several new schools, such as Oakstead Elementary and Sunlake High, as well as many renovations including Stewart Middle and Pasco Middle.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614.

Fast facts

In other news Tuesday

• The School Board learned that Pasco eSchool has surpassed its initial enrollment projections by more than double.

• The board approved John Simon as its new director of finance.

• Board member Kathryn Starkey left the board workshop complaining of pain in her side. District staff members took her to the hospital as a precaution.

For Pasco County school, less Penny tax funds to go around 02/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 8:49pm]

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