Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco's economic crunch leaves hard choices for commissioners

NEW PORT RICHEY — If this were a fairy tale, Pasco County would be the damsel in distress. A wicked witch of an economy has stirred up a toxic brew that includes a $30 million budget hole next year, followed by several more years of lower revenues. A projected $200 million shortfall in the capital improvement plan over the next five years. More meddling from state lawmakers. Rising unemployment and foreclosure rates.

As top staffers painted a gloomy picture Tuesday, county commissioners hoped for a knight in shining armor: high wage jobs, if they can be lured.

For now, though, service cuts and higher taxes are likely to be on the way.

"What (revenues) we gained in new construction over the last nine years have all been wiped out," budget director Mike Nurrenbrock told commissioners at the daylong workshop at Pasco-Hernando Community College.

He said the county's options include service cuts, downsizing, creating new revenues and increases in existing revenues, and an increase in the county's property tax rate, which has steadily decreased since 1995.

Commissioner Ted Schrader said he would support a tax rate increase as long as it raised the same level of revenue as this year. Officials refer to that as the rollback rate, and it does not have to be advertised as a tax increase.

"I'd be okay with the rollback rate," Schrader said.

The purpose of the workshop, led by the county's consultants, the International City-County Management Association, was to begin to develop a strategic plan. County officials used the economic downturn as an opportunity to rethink how the county does business. Happening simultaneously is an overhaul of the county's land development code and the evaluation of its comprehensive plan.

During the workshop, commissioners listened as department heads gave an overview of demographic trends.

For example, the county has gotten slightly younger with a median age of 42.1. Families also have gotten slightly larger. The majority of the county remains white, though there are pockets of minorities.

Poverty will remain concentrated east of Dade City. By 2035 and 2050, most of the population will remain on the west coast, though the south-central corridor will have grown significantly.

Recommendations were for the U.S. 19 corridor to be redeveloped, while the State Road 54 corridor is ripe for further development.

After taking in all the information, commissioners listened to results of town meetings with focus groups and surveys that were sent to residents.

The most significant challenges were identified as managing growth and economic development, followed by the budget deficit.

County commissioners drafted a document of the biggest challenges that included economic development, financial sustainability, identifying areas best for growth, maintaining acceptable levels of service, improving transportation and protecting the environment. A suggested way to do that was by extending the Penny for Pasco sales tax, which helps generate money to buy sensitive lands.

County Commissioner Michael Cox offered another suggestion to maintaining the county's quality of life: Stop approving housing developments and strip malls. Establish a fund that can be used to provide incentives to attract high-wage businesses like financial giant T. Rowe Price, which the county is vying to land with $30 million in state and local sweeteners.

"We can't keep doing the same thing we've been doing," he said. "We have to change direction."

Lisa Buie can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4604.

Fast Facts

To learn more

To see highlights from the strategic planning workshop and demographic information, visit:

Pasco's economic crunch leaves hard choices for commissioners 05/05/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 9:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.