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Zephyrhills may reschedule elections

ZEPHYRHILLS — A pitiful turnout for this year's municipal elections has prompted the Zephyrhills City Council to consider rescheduling its city elections.

In April, 8.5 percent of registered city voters ventured to the polls. It was the lowest municipal election turnout in the county, second to New Port Richey, where 12 percent of the electorate exercised their right to vote.

In Port Richey, by comparison, 32 percent of voters hit the polls.

Now, Zephyrhills is considering adding its municipal contenders to the general election ballot. City Manager Steve Spina, who was not present at Monday's meeting, suggested changing the election date at a Municipal Association of Pasco meeting earlier in the year.

Considering 49 percent of Pasco voters showed up for the November 2006 general election, the hope is that changing the date will bring more people to the polls.

"It seems like a pretty straightforward idea to increase voter turnout," said Todd Vande Berg, the city's director of development, before the meeting.

City Council members seemed lukewarm to the idea. Some said the few people who came to municipal elections were "quality voters" who cared about the city. They also worried that local candidates could get missed on the ballot among bigger names.

"I can see us getting lost in the shuffle," said council president Luis Lopez.

But council vice president Jodi Wilkeson liked the cost-saving measure of combining elections.

Zephyrhills will get a trial run of the plan this year. In November, city voters will choose who replaces former City Council member Daniel Burgess Jr. who left his seat in July to attend law school in Orlando.

Council members said they would discuss the idea further after the November election.

In other news:

• Wednesday, the city will hold its first public meeting on the proposed 2008-09 $42-million city budget, which is based on a 5.57 millage rate.

At 5.57 mills, a Zephyrhills resident whose property is assessed at $100,000 would pay about $279 in property taxes, after taking the $50,000 homestead exemption.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Zephyrhills may reschedule elections 09/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 8:51pm]
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