NEW PORT RICHEY — The New Port Richey City Council managed to pass a budget and property tax rate for the new fiscal year, but only after dissent from two council members who wanted to see a bigger tax break for residents.
It came down to a 3-2 vote last week as the council approved a budget of nearly $56 million and a reduction in property taxes for residents — from a millage rate last year of 9.15 to 8.995 for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. So on a property valued at $100,000, after taking a homestead exemption, a rate of 8.995 mills means the owner would pay a little less than $900 in city taxes.
For council member Bill Phillips, it did not represent a deep enough cut, as he continued to his call to look for places to cut the budget to get the millage rate under 8. Phillips said consultants have consistently come before council saying a millage rate in the "7's" would be a big enticement for investors to come to the city.
Phillips also pointed to burdens on residents of paying a new paving assessment coming this year, as well as storm-water and streetlight assessments, before voting against both the millage rate and the budget.
"I just don't see where we have taken the fair and equitable path of trying to reduce the millage rate," he said.
Council member Chopper Davis also voted against the millage rate and budget, saying some city departments, specifically parks positions at the recreation center, have duplicate workloads.
Mayor Rob Marlowe, along with Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey and Judy DeBella Thomas, voted for the millage rate and budget, with Marlowe saying it still provides a tax break in a city where there is not a groundswell of residents calling for one, but instead a desire for continued progress.