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Pasco officials give initial approval to new political boundaries

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners and School Board members gave initial approval Tuesday to new political boundaries that reshuffle the county's population after the last census.

The new numbers for County Commission and School Board seats show that an ideal district would have 92,939 people, and state law says districts must be as "equal in population as practical."

The upshot: The central Pasco district represented by County Commissioner Pat Mulieri and School Board member Joanne Hurley cedes large swaths of territory to each of the other four districts. That district includes burgeoning Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel.

In Pasco, County Commission districts match those of the School Board. The new districts won't have an immediate effect on most voters, except for those considering a run for public office. Commissioners and School Board members are elected countywide, though they must live in the districts they represent.

Commissioner Ted Schrader, whose east Pasco District 1 picked up a rural stretch in the northern part of the county, said he liked that the new lines largely follow logical boundaries such as major roads.

"Those are lines in the sand, I guess, that aren't going to change," he said.

For example, District 3 is now a 25-mile strip south of State Road 54 that begins in Gulf Harbors and stops just short of The Shops at Wiregrass. That seat is currently held by Commissioner Ann Hildebrand and School Board member Cynthia Armstrong.

County Administrator John Gallagher joked that Hildebrand's new district makes sense "because you spend most of your time over there shopping."

District 4, represented by Commissioner Henry Wilson and School Board member Alison Crumbley, expands eastward, taking in the remainder of Starkey Ranch and a stretch of land between the Suncoast Parkway and the railroad that runs alongside U.S. 41.

Another key change is that district now includes all of New Port Richey.

Current boundaries place the southern half of the city in the Hudson-based District 5, represented by Commissioner Jack Mariano and School Board member Steve Luikart.

Mariano supported that change, saying it made it easier for New Port Richey residents to know their local elected officials. Under the new maps, he said, people can simply use U.S. 19 as a dividing line.

Luikart resisted the move, saying it put three extra schools into his district.

But other School Board members said the schools are still distributed fairly evenly and that new schools often disrupt the balance anyway.

Commissioners and School Board members will formally adopt the new boundaries at a future date.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Pasco officials give initial approval to new political boundaries 08/16/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8:55pm]
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