Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

New gas tax fails in Pasco County

DADE CITY — Pasco drivers will catch a break at the pump after county commissioners Tuesday were unable to muster enough votes to approve an increase in gas taxes.

Commissioners debated raising the tax by 5 cents, then proposed a 3-cent or 2-cent hike when it became clear that not enough commissioners would back it.

Four votes were needed for passage, but two of the five commissioners opposed the increase: Henry Wilson and Jack Mariano.

Mariano had come out against the tax weeks ago. Wilson, who signaled some support initially, said he couldn't support it "in these economic times."

The increase, as proposed at 5 cents, would have raised the local option tax, or gas tax, to 12 cents from the 7 cents Pasco drivers now pay for a gallon of gas. That would have put Pasco at the top in the Tampa Bay area.

"My worry is if we do nothing, our roads will deteriorate and we will pay more," said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who proposed the increase.

The decision followed a lengthy public hearing in which opponents told commissioners how any increase will pose a hardship, especially to seniors, the poor and businesses.

Officials initially grappled with a 5-cent increase, but scaled back the proposal after citizens vented their frustration.

"It would add to the already economically burdened, to those underemployed and seeking employment," Tammy Kennedy of Wesley Chapel said. "Gas is a vital part of getting to work or to hospital appointments."

About 40 people testified during the 3½-hour meeting. Opposition to the tax ran about 5 to 1. Those backing it said it was needed to improve county roads.

"Pasco County has made a huge investment in its roads. If you have an investment like that, you can't just let it fall apart," said John Hagen, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council. "It would be like buying a Cadillac and deciding to not change the oil."

The tax, if approved at the full 5 cents, would have cost drivers an average of $67 per year.

The levy would have raised an estimated $5.9 million between January and September if the full 5 cents was approved. Most would have gone toward the county's road maintenance fund.

After a peak of $8.9 million in 2008, the fund is now at $6.3 million. Because of the cuts, the number of workers to maintain roads has dropped from 90 to 40. Responding to a call to fix a pothole, which used to take seven days, now takes 47 days.

"We've dug ourselves into a hole," public works director Mike Garrett told commissioners.

The vote preceded a separate public hearing about a proposed increase in the millage rate. That hearing was the first of two this month connected to next year's $1.16 billion county budget.

Officials are proposing to raise the rate for the general fund, which pays for county operations not supported by fees, from 6.862 mills to 7.344 mills. The municipal fire service unit, which pays for fire and rescue services, would go from 1.541 mills to 1.717 mills.

A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value. So, for the owner of a home valued at $150,000 with $50,000 in exemptions, the two changes would translate to an $82 tax increase.

Comments

High school scoreboard for Feb. 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 0BaseballCalvary Christian 9, Countryside 2Northeast 15, Tarpon Springs 1
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

TALLAHASSEE — A bombshell that South Florida police ignored tips that a teenager was planning an assault on a school and then failed to stop him when he attacked seems destined to complicate the election-year discussion around mass shootings.Even in ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

WASHINGTON — A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange."He never ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature have rolled out their ideas for change in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But would these measures have made a difference in the worst mass...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA — A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter.If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can crea...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said, which is something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 8...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 6 hours ago
She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

PARKLAND — She was afraid of what it would feel like, but she needed to know, so Melissa Falkowski pulled into the faculty parking lot. She took a deep breath in through her nose and climbed out of her car. She was back, in front of Marjory Stoneman ...
Updated: 6 hours ago