Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

If voters extend penny tax, list of school projects is long

Penny for Pasco money has helped to change the entire look of Pasco High. The $17.3 million project renovated the Dade City school inside and out, and included new classroom buildings.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times (2011)

Penny for Pasco money has helped to change the entire look of Pasco High. The $17.3 million project renovated the Dade City school inside and out, and included new classroom buildings.

LAND O'LAKES — Backers of extending the Penny for Pasco sales tax for another decade are fond of the phrase "promises made, promises kept."

Nearly a decade ago, officials set out specific lists of how they would spend the Penny, and proponents say they've lived up to that list. Even some opponents of the original 2004 measure became supporters after attending the Pasco school district's oversight committee meetings, where members kept tabs on Penny-supported projects and their associated budgets.

"As we reviewed the projects, it was very important to us … that they trusted us," said John Petrashek, school district director of new construction. "It was ingrained in us to make sure we fulfilled the commitments. … If we haven't hit all of them, we've hit most of them."

By the time the 10-year life of the tax is up, it's expected to generate $139 million for the school district (not counting the roughly $8.5 million annual reimbursement the district received to offset a property tax cut, which officials promised to voters who approved the sales tax increase).

When promoting the original tax, the district made plans to build nine schools and improve 10 existing campuses. The projects by and large got done as promised. The differences came mainly in the details.

For instance, the original plan called for two middle schools, one in Shady Hills and one in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. Both got built, but just one — Crews Lake Middle — was purchased with Penny funds. John Long Middle opened as intended, but officials freed up other revenues to pay for it.

The project list also included five new elementary schools, including three in west Pasco and two in south-central Pasco. Five new elementary schools did rise using sales tax money — Veterans, Oakstead, New River, Double Branch and Gulf Trace — but just one of those (Gulf Trace) was in west Pasco. The others all were along the State Road 54 corridor between Odessa and Wesley Chapel.

The School Board did purchase land in Hudson intending to erect an elementary school, but never built there.

District planning director Chris Williams said the ultimate decision on where to place the schools hinged primarily on population demands. Growth anticipated in Hudson never materialized, he explained, while families poured into the south-central region of the county.

"We're not going to just go build a new school for the sake of building it," Williams said.

The plan called for and supported two new high schools, Anclote and Sunlake.

The construction program also included major renovations at Pasco, Centennial, Cox, and San Antonio elementary schools; Pasco, Stewart and Gulf middle schools; and Pasco, Gulf and Zephyrhills high schools. With a few small exceptions, all the details were attended to, from new roofing and air conditioning at Gulf Middle to a classroom replacements at Stewart Middle.

Because of savings in some areas, the district was able to expand initiatives at several schools, adding to the scope of work. Zephyrhills High, for instance, got an unscheduled new security system, bleacher renovations, parking lot repairs and science lab remodeling.

Improvements at Pasco Middle, including a new media center, cafeteria and classrooms, grew from a planned $4.3 million expense to a $9.3 million effort. Pasco High's overhaul, including new classroom buildings, expanded from an initial $5 million budget to a $17.3 million project that changed the school's entire look.

A few of the projects, such as improvements to the music and art classrooms at Cox Elementary and new freezers and coolers at Pasco High, are set for 2013-14. The district expects to receive more than $220 million if voters decide Nov. 6 to renew the Penny for another decade. Officials have a long list of projects for which that money would be slated.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at

If voters extend penny tax, list of school projects is long 10/06/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 2:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    (Smith sig)

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-named prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  2. Nine Florida football players, 62 felony complaints in fraud scandal


    GAINESVILLE — The fraud scandal that has engulfed the University of Florida's nationally ranked football team for weeks exploded Monday with the first detailed accounts of criminal accusations that threaten to derail the Gators' season.

  3. Where Rays shortstop Matt Duffy's lost season leads

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — In a perfect world Matt Duffy would have been in New York on Monday with his Rays teammates enjoying the final off day of the year. Instead, he was on Field 4 at Pirate City on a sweltering afternoon, trying to restart his season.

  4. Vinny Lecavalier's jersey retirement will be another classic Vinny moment

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — He was the face of the franchise. He was taken first overall in the 1998 NHL Draft by a franchise at the bottom. Art Williams, the nutty Tampa Bay Lightning owner at the time, proclaimed the 18-year-old from Ile Bizard, a Montreal borough, "the Michael Jordan of hockey."

    Former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier talks to the media at Amalie Arena on Monday, September 25, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning announced Monday that Lecavalier's No. 4 jersey will be retired on Feb. 10, when the Los Angeles Kings are in town. Lecavalier, the No. 1 overall pick in 1998, spent 14 seasons with the Lightning, scoring 383 of his 321 career goals.
  5. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]