Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

New Port Richey officials to take a bus tour of the city

NEW PORT RICHEY — The New Port Richey City Council will be getting a rare close-up view of the city this weekend, including properties under consideration for a fire sale to raise revenue.

On Saturday, the council's five members will join City Manager John Schneiger and City Attorney Mike Davis for a bus tour of the city. It will serve as an educational venture for the council on the city's inner workings, and will also give the council a look at city property there are hopes to unload, according to Schneiger.

"I'm not sure if this has been done here before," Schneiger said of the tour. "But I think it's important for the council to get a close-up look at what we are facing."

Mayor Bob Consalvo — who worked for the city for more than three decades — agreed that touring the city's departments could be a plus.

"I would have liked to see the council come around and see what we were doing when I was a city employee," he said. However, most employees will be off that day.

The council will not only be taking a look at the city's departments. Members also will see firsthand most of the 90 parcels listed Tuesday at a work session that New Port Richey hopes to get on the real estate market to ease severe financial shortfalls predicted in the next five years.

From its most valuable property, the Hacienda Hotel, appraised at more than $1.1 million, to an easement valued at $851, it's all planned for sale. One plot holds an unneeded fire station valued at more than $110,000 in the 6100 block of High Street, and several lots surrounding the Claude Pepper Senior Center adjacent to the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center valued at more than $574,000 are being considered for sale.

"I'm not sure we want to be in the real estate business, but we have a lot of property that if we can get cleared of any title issues could be valuable," said Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe.

Consalvo said the tour will give the council a good look at prime prospects for sale.

"Get them fixed up, get them on the market, get them sold, and get them generating tax revenue," Consalvo said.

The property sale is just one response to dire economic projections over the next five years. Last month, the city learned that property values dropped nearly 11 percent this year, drastically cutting the income from property taxes.

In addition, the city faces a $695,000 drop from two kinds of utility taxes: a surcharge that all city residents pay on their electric bills, and a utility franchise fee that Progress Energy pays the city.

The news piled on an external auditor's existing forecast of a deficit of about $12 million over the next five years, but the situation involving the property and utility taxes spiked the projection to about $15 million, according to Schneiger.

Schneiger says layoffs cannot be avoided, and that an announcement on possible job losses could come by the end of the month. On Tuesday, city officials agreed to a PR blitz in hopes that the effort will educate the public, drum up volunteers and generate ideas for economic development.

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