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New Port Richey can use $967,000 previously restricted to utilities

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city's anemic financial picture got a $967,000 boost this week when the City Council learned it could use funds previously restricted to water and sewer.

At the meeting Tuesday night, council member Bill Phillips already had a spreadsheet outlining his wish list. He proposed using the windfall to shore up the tight reserve fund by $650,000, then spending $100,000 for police, $40,000 for the fire department, $40,000 for the library and $37,000 for the development department for computers and a review of the city's antiquated land use code.

He proposed spending $50,000 for an evaluation of city-owned properties within the Community Redevelopment Agency to get them ready for sale, and he proposed $50,000 for a structural stabilization of one of those CRA properties, the historic Hacienda Hotel.

"We've been talking about doing all of these things for a year,'' Phillips said, "so I think this gives us a chance to get moving on them."

The option to transfer funds from water and sewer came about after the city refinanced its utility bonds last year, finance director Doug Haag explained.

Afterward, the city's consultant, Burton & Associates, found several avenues for possible legal transfers of funds that had been restricted.

More than $847,500 will come from a transfer of funds stemming from wholesale water New Port Richey buys from Tampa Bay Water, which purchased the city's water wells in May 1998 for $13.2 million and pays for the acquisition by giving the city credits.

The Burton report found that the city's general fund can tap into the credits because the city made the deal with the agency, not its water and sewer enterprise.

Also, the city will be able to bill its own water and sewer enterprise fund more than $107,000 this year for use of the city's right of way and easements used for infrastructure.

"We find your utility to be very well-run, very efficient," Burton president Michael Burton told the council.

New Port Richey can use $967,000 previously restricted to utilities 04/03/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 8:39pm]
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