Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Port Richey wants flexible plan for Penny for Pasco dollars

NEW PORT RICHEY — For officials of a cash-strapped city, the Penny for Pasco sales tax is a financial lifeline.

If voters decide Nov. 6 to extend the tax for another decade, the new round of collections would begin in 2015 — right as New Port Richey faces a financial crisis that council member Bill Phillips once referred to as a "tsunami" of economic trouble.

With the city's growing debt service on several redevelopment properties expected to swallow much of its other funding, the only money available for projects would come from "critical" Penny funds, according to a report by City Manager John Schneiger.

"Based on scary cash-flow projections for the general fund over the next five years, the city is deferring all but mission critical capital improvements or those where significant outside funds will be leveraged," he wrote in a memo to council members.

So council members want to have some wiggle room on how they'd spend their piece of Penny revenues, which would bring the city an estimated $18 million over the tax's 10-year extension. While county officials and the School Board are developing specific project lists for their share of the tax, New Port Richey officials are simply identifying categories for possible spending.

The categories include utilities, transportation, public safety, public facilities, economic development, community redevelopment, parks and recreation facilities, and urban forestry.

In each of those categories, the council approved lists of wants such as utility infrastructure improvements, street paving, sidewalk expansions, vehicle replacement and maintenance, building improvements and ecotourism development. But exact projects were not nailed down.

"We have chosen to be general," Schneiger said.

It's similar to the stance the city took during the lead-up to the first tax voters passed in 2004, and it's the right way to go, said Phillips, who co-chaired the citizens committee that campaigned for passing the current Penny tax.

Phillips said with the city's fluid financial difficulties, decisions on how to use funds will need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

But he said voters can be assured they will see the improvements.

State law limits how sales tax revenue can be used — it can't go toward salaries, for instance. And the city has a record of using the funds efficiently, Phillips said, noting the Main Street improvements done with the current Penny for Pasco.

"The problem you have if you get too site specific is then you can't use those dollars for things that might come up that may be critical or more important than a project you have gotten locked into," he said. "But I can assure the voters that we will be good stewards of that money."

The lion's share of the sales tax — 90 percent — would be split between county government and the school district while the six Pasco cities would divide the remaining 10 percent.

So far the renewal campaign has emphasized that officials spent the first round of funding exactly as they told voters they would: Promises made, promises kept.

Still, New Port Richey's financial problems, coupled with an uncertain economy, are good reasons for the city to have a more general spending plan, said Hutch Brock, who is co-chair of the Pasco Citizens Committee political group that is promoting renewing the tax.

"I certainly understand the municipalities' financial constraints. The economy has thrown a lot of curveballs," he said. "It's not the type of plan where anyone is trying to hide money or to do anything other than say, 'Here are the specific areas where we want to use the Penny funds.' "

New Port Richey wants flexible plan for Penny for Pasco dollars 06/21/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 21, 2012 6:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

    Blogs

    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.