DADE CITY — The 911 fee on monthly phone bills and the cost of adopting a pet from the county shelter could go up under a proposal being considered to help make up for Pasco County's $34.7 million budget shortfall.
Top county administrators revealed the higher fees were on the table during a workshop Tuesday in which county commissioners also learned that the overall budget would be $1 million leaner, thanks to increase in health insurance costs incurred after the county switched carriers.
That did not come as good news to commissioners, who had hoped to use part of their $13.2 million in reserves to possibly "buy back" some of the 260 positions that would be eliminated under the proposed spending plan. Budget director Mike Nurrenbrock told them they now have only $12.2 million to possibly undo some of the cuts, a situation that sets the stage for intense lobbying by groups seeking to spare their programs.
He said he will have an "a la carte menu" that tells commissioners how much reinstating each position costs.
The proposed budget also assumes a higher tax rate that would collect the same amount of revenue as last year. The rate, called the rollback rate, would not have to be advertised as a tax increase. That total rate — counting both the general fund and the fire taxing district — is $7.62 per $1,000 of taxable value, up from $6.35. That's an almost 20 percent rise in the tax rate.
If commissioners keep the same millage rate, they'd be looking at a $23.7 million deficit due to the almost 15 percent drop in taxable property values.
Other revenue sources are down, too. State revenue sharing and the half-cent sales tax will bring in $2.8 million less next year. Interest income has decreased by $11.68 million.
"Whatever goals you set, you are going to run out of money," County Administrator John Gallagher told commissioners, adding that this year's budget process will take longer than in previous years.
"I think this is a balancing act that isn't going to be easy," Commissioner Pat Mulieri said.
Also under consideration are fee increases, including a 10-cent monthly increase in the 911 fee for land lines and an increase of about $10 for pet adoptions.
Land line telephones now are charged 40 cents a month. Monthly 911 fees for cell phones, are 50 cents, and that would not change.
Current adoptions fees are $50 for dogs and puppies plus $15 for mandatory microchip and $5 for a license tag. Those who adopt cats and kittens pay $20 plus $15 for mandatory microchip with a $5 optional license available. Adoption fees include spaying or neutering, a rabies shot, a microchip, a training DVD and a general exam by a veterinarian.
Commissioner Michael Cox wondered whether some Pasco fees are too low. He said he was in the Panhandle community of Destin and paid at least $10 to launch a boat. "I think we charge $5 to launch a boat," he said.
Commissioners plan to have another budget workshop Aug. 4. Consultants from the International City/County Management Association plan to offer training on how to handle difficult economic times. Commissioners agreed to invite constitutional officers to that workshop.
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.