Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco commission wants road projects, unsure how to pay for them

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DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners Tuesday decided to spend another $8 million in next year's budget on road projects after wrestling with how to pay for the work — through property taxes or a boost in gas taxes.

By law, commissioners can increase gas taxes by 5 cents a gallon to raise an additional $8 million yearly, or they can turn to property taxes or a combination of the two.

In the end, the commissioners couldn't decide how to raise the funds, though they did reach consensus on the need for millions more for road projects.

A report Tuesday from staff showed that more than a dozen road projects were delayed or shelved in the past two years so that more funds could be spent on road maintenance, such as filling potholes.

Staff said that millions are necessary to keep up with growth. They gave commissioners an option of adding $5 million or $8 million more to the capital budget for roads, but urged that they back the $8 million request, which commissioners supported.

Last September, commissioners backed down from raising gas taxes after angry residents complained at several meetings.

Four votes were needed to increase gas taxes from their current 7-cent level, but only three commissioners backed the increase.

As with last time, commissioners remain divided, with Jack Mariano and Henry Wilson voicing opposition to the tax while Ted Schrader, Pat Mulieri and Kathryn Starkey supported the increase.

Mariano, however, said he might consider a combination of higher gas taxes and property taxes to pay for the work.

"I'm willing to look at it," he said.

Schrader said he favors gas taxes because it's a user-based fee, plus Pasco can benefit from having truckers and others from outside the area fill up here.

The issue came to a head Tuesday after county Administrator Michele Baker told commissioners that she needed some idea now of how much revenue to expect as staff begins work on next year's budget.

"We're running out of time and we need some guidance on how you want us to plan," she said, adding that the commissioners didn't need to decide the sources of revenue until later this summer.

The fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

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