Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco establishes special tax for law enforcement

NEW PORT RICHEY — The budget showdown between Sheriff Bob White and Pasco administrators has become something of a summertime ritual.

But on Tuesday, Pasco commissioners took a step they hope will curtail a bit of the annual wrangling: They've handed off more of the work to the sheriff by changing how they finance his office.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to establish a special tax for law enforcement. Commissioner Jack Mariano was out of town and did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

That new tax on property owners in unincorporated Pasco, called a "municipal services taxing unit," would allow the county to shift an estimated $52 million in law enforcement costs out of the general fund.

Just as it does with a similar financing setup for fire and rescue, the commission would set the tax rate.

The rest of the sheriff's $85 million budget — which covers countywide functions such as running the jail — will continue to be paid for out of the general fund. That's the pot of money that also pays for such services as libraries and parks.

Commissioners said the new arrangement will not necessarily mean a difference in money for the sheriff, but will give the public a better sense of where their taxes are going.

"This provides a huge level of transparency," said Commissioner Michael Cox, who added that it will end the "nitpicking" over the sheriff's budget.

But money isn't the only thing the plan will shift. It will also hand over more of the politics to the sheriff, who will have to sell his budget — and any potential tax hikes to finance it — to the public.

White, who attended Tuesday's meeting, was cool to the plan, saying, in part, that it failed to account for the time his deputies spend helping out municipal police departments. Property owners in the four cities that have their own police departments will not have to pay the special tax.

But White also noted that the county's municipal services taxing unit for firefighting was so short on money that at one point last year officials put 70 fire-rescue positions on the line.

"I have no problem taking all the heat for the money I spend. … I do see again that we're in the same boat because the board has 100 percent say in the rate," he said.

Since the 2001 fiscal year, White has typically received from commissioners more than 99 percent of his requested budget, according to an analysis of county figures.

White and commissioners took different views on how to interpret county surveys showing that public safety is a top priority.

Commissioners said White should take comfort in it, saying they expect that voters would likely support his requests.

"It's your role to sell that millage rate … and based on our surveys, citizens are willing to support that," said Commissioner Ted Schrader.

White said the surveys indicated that county commissioners needed to make law enforcement their priority when deciding how to spend out of their countywide general fund.

"If the public wants public safety, isn't it incumbent on you to fund it out of the general fund?" White said.

The idea is to reduce the countywide property tax rate for the general fund since it will have to bear fewer costs.

So if commissioners generate $55 million for law enforcement with a millage rate of $3 per $1,000 of taxable property, they could reduce the general fund millage rate by $2.57, according to county finance director Mike Nurrenbrock.

Previous attempts to create a special tax for law enforcement have failed. In 1998, then-Sheriff Lee Cannon pushed for a new tax to supplement, not replace, his budget to pay for new deputies. Voters rejected his proposed municipal services taxing unit by an almost 4-to-1 ratio.

As they continue wrestling with a $15.1 million deficit, commissioners also agreed Tuesday to use nearly $5 million in two separate reserve accounts to help balance the budget.

County officials also said Tuesday they are planning to ask all four constitutional officers who get property tax revenue — White, Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, Clerk Paula O'Neil and Property Appraiser Mike Wells — to submit budgets with 5 percent reductions.

Those reductions would total about $4.8 million.

White would not tell commissioners Tuesday whether he would agree to that reduction.

Corley and Wells told the Times Tuesday they were aiming for that level of reductions.

"It'll probably be more than 5 percent," said Corley.

He added, however, that he is still tweaking his numbers, given that he has a big-ticket item in the upcoming fiscal year — elections, which will require two-page ballots because of all the constitutional amendments.

Wells said he didn't think 5 percent was unreasonable. "I'll be most likely able to accommodate that," he said. "I can appreciate their quandary, and I'll do all I can to keep my budget down as I have since 1997."

O'Neil said in an interview that she isn't sure if she can make a 5 percent cut, noting that last year her office eliminated 85 positions, increased the amount employees contribute to their health care premiums and instituted furloughs. "We're looking at everything," she said.

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

Pasco establishes special tax for law enforcement 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 7:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  2. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  3. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  4. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  5. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]