PORT RICHEY — City leaders gave initial approval to a 7.5 percent increase in Port Richey's budget this coming fiscal year.
During a work session last week, City Council members praised the $11.6-million budget compiled by finance officials, which will need final approval during two public meetings to be held in September.
The bulk of the projected increase is due to the need for capital improvements in the aging utility infrastructure. The city is also bracing for a 30 percent increase in health insurance costs for employees. Last year the city saw a similar spike due to a poor claims history. The projected health insurance increase led several council members to call for looking into creating a wellness program for employees.
In a finance report on the budget, the city also cited a 1.7 percent decrease in property values. City Manager Tom O'Neill said some options for offsetting the decreasing tax base could include enacting streetlight and debris collection fees, as well as charging for use of the city's parks. City Council member Steve O'Neill said such discussions should take place but the council agreed to wait until this year's budget is completed.