Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School district has been paying fee to New Port Richey in error

NEW PORT RICHEY — Since 2012, the city of New Port Richey has charged the Pasco County school district streetlight fee assessments that district officials say they shouldn't have to pay.

But pay they did, to the tune of $9,272 a year. Now, the district wants its money back.

"Unfortunately, we made some payments that we shouldn't have," district chief financial officer Olga Swinson said. "I am still trying to get to the bottom of it and see why we did, because there was clear indication that we shouldn't have been."

District officials discovered the extent of the payments after a Tampa Bay Times editorial writer asked why the district paid the fees if it was exempt from stormwater fees elsewhere.

It turned out that New Port Richey began charging streetlight fees in 2012 for Gulf Middle, Gulf High, Richey Elementary, Harry Schwettman Education Center and a transportation depot. The bills coincided with a change in a city ordinance increasing the fees.

A form letter to residents noted that the fee was not new, having originally been imposed in 2003. The difference, it said, was a change in the amount. It noted the fee represented a pass-through of utility costs that all property owners — including governments — would pay.

In the past, the School Board had notified the city that it was not legally obligated to pay stormwater utility fees. It held the same position on the streetlight fees, which it had never paid.

Somehow, though, the message did not carry through to the city billing department. And when the district received the notices, Swinson said, "we in my department just picked them up and paid them. It was an error."

She said the district would attempt to get a refund, although she didn't know how successful that effort would be.

City finance director Peter Altman, who only recently began his job, said he needed to research the background of the fee and the district's position before making any recommendations.

"All the governments have to work together to serve the citizenry," said Altman, a former county commissioner and city mayor. "I am looking forward to working with them to resolve this issue."

Meanwhile, the district's opposition to Dade City's fees has been put on hold, as the city missed its deadline to place the amount on 2014 county tax bills.

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

School district has been paying fee to New Port Richey in error 03/07/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 7, 2014 1:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.