NEW PORT RICHEY — County commissioners on Tuesday approved a raft of fee increases for 58 recreation facility and program fees.
Commission Chairman Ted Schrader also asked county staff to create a year-round pass for residents who launch boats or park trailers at the Anclote River Park, as an alternative to a pay-per-entry machine. The park's fees used to be capped at $20 a month, but will now go up to $5 a day.
The rest of the fees, which have been unchanged for 15 years, affect summer camps, youth and adult athletic leagues, swimming pools, picnic shelters and campsites, and sports fields and courts. The new rates will go into effect within 45 days, County Administrator John Gallagher said.
Officials argue the fee hikes shift the burden for these services to those who actually use the facilities.
The increases would generate $400,000 in revenue, partially patching a $16-million loss in county property taxes from a voter referendum passed in January.
Even with the extra cash, there may be more staff cuts in store.
"Do you think this would help you survive Amendment 1?" Commissioner Michael Cox asked Rick Buckman, the county's recreation director.
"No," Buckman said. "Really, this was pre-Amendment 1. This was to update our schedule. It won't make a profit."
Buckman called the hikes a "small piece of puzzle" in the county's efforts to close the budget gap.
Schrader suggested having nonresidents pay a higher rate at the Anclote River Park. Under Tuesday's proposal, there are different charges for residents and nonresidents only at the county's three gymnasiums. Residents pay $5 for an annual photo identification card to use at the gym. Nonresidents pay $15.
Cox suggested having people pay these fees online as much as possible.
"Absolutely," Buckman said. "We're working on it. We've been talking about that for two years."
In other business, the commission agreed to take $45,000 of gas tax revenue to extend a contract for consulting services by the lobbyist firm of Tew Cardenas. County staff limited the scope of the consultant's work to transportation issues only. Commissioner Pat Mulieri balked at the cost, but was the sole dissent.
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