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Pasco: Budget plan would cut 76 jobs, close one library

DADE CITY — Seventy-six county positions would be cut and a library closed under the $1 billion budget proposed by county administrators.

A little less than half of those positions — 36 — are currently filled. The other 40 are vacant.

The loss of some of those 76 positions — a combination of part- and full-time jobs — is the result of consolidations, including public works with stormwater; zoning with permitting; and engineering inspections with project management.

Many of those positions are in facilities management. Others are in building construction services; road and bridge; community services; libraries and utilities.

The budget, unveiled Tuesday, also calls for closing the Centennial Library in Holiday. All other library hours will remain the same.

Nearly all of the staff at Centennial will be moved to fill vacancies at other libraries, said budget director Mike Nurrenbrock.

The Pasco tax roll lost $2.7 billion in value, meaning less property tax revenue for the general fund, which pays for basic services like law enforcement, libraries and parks. The tax roll that finances the fire rescue department lost about $2.5 billion in value.

By deciding to possibly go with a slightly higher tax rate for the general fund (an extra 23 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value), commissioners have created a roughly $4.4 million reserve they can use to "buy back" some of the cuts proposed by administrators.

That money could also be rolled over to prepare for significant cuts in 2011-12 or could be used to reduce the tax rate.

Chairwoman Pat Mulieri, who is running for re-election this year, immediately asked to put back a $37,000 position in the Veterans Services Office — before officials had even presented the budget.

Otherwise, she said, the veterans would start collecting petitions as soon as word got out about the position cut and "we're going to have those veterans standing out in the hot sun."

Her colleagues urged her to wait until they'd heard about the other programs.

"I think you're jumping the gun a little," said Commissioner Michael Cox.

For the third year in a row, no wage increases are budgeted for county employees.

The budget creates 29 positions, too.

Those new jobs include 15 firefighters; two animal control technicians to run the new adoption center; five positions for stormwater utility; a part-time position in the environmental lands program; five positions for community development and one customer service job.

The new firefighting positions are intended to reduce the amount of money being spent on overtime. The five community development positions, which will be paid for with the federal housing stimulus money, will be eliminated once that money dries up, said Nurrenbrock.

The fire fund also contains a slightly higher proposed tax rate — from $1.20 to $1.43 per $1,000 of assessed value — which will generate enough money to give Fire Rescue roughly the same amount of money it had this year, plus cover increases in health insurance and pensions.

The higher overall tax rate won't necessarily result in higher tax bills for most homeowners.

About two-thirds of the 127,000 homesteaders in Pasco no longer see any difference between their market values and their assessed values. In those cases, the owners can expect to see a decrease in their assessed values, on average around 11 percent.

That could translate into a lower tax bill.

The other third of homesteaders, typically longtime owners, still stand to pay more in taxes despite market values falling.

That's because the market value is still above the assessed value. In those cases, the state allows a home's taxable value to rise with inflation up to 3 percent if the home is below market value so local governments can "recapture" the savings homeowners got in years past under Save Our Homes.

The overall $1.02 billion budget is up slightly from the current year's, due to a bond issue and federal stimulus funds.

Though the general fund is getting about $10 million less in property taxes, it is up roughly $8 million — from $209 million to $217 million — due to increases in other revenue sources.

The proposed budget assumes significant new fees, including those expected to generate $876,290 for the parks and recreation department. Commissioners will vote this summer on those new park fees, which include a $2 per car charge at nearly a dozen parks.

Over the last three years, the county's tax base has lost $11 billion due to Amendment 1 and the declining real estate values, according to officials.

Last September, Pasco commissioners laid off 98 employees due to a combination of budget cuts and reorganization but ended up rehiring all but 26 in other positions.

Many of those who were rehired, however, took pay cuts.

Commissioners will tackle the details at budget sessions this summer. The first public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7 in Dade City.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

By the numbers

$11 billion Loss in Pasco's tax base over the past three years due to Amendment 1 and declining property values.

76 County jobs on the chopping block.

29 New jobs proposed in other departments.

1 Proposed library closure — Centennial in Holiday.

Pasco: Budget plan would cut 76 jobs, close one library 07/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:46pm]

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