If anyone has some budgetary pixie dust, District 1 Commissioner Ted Schrader would sure like to have some. His challenger, Ron Oakley, criticized commissioners for tentatively adopting a so-called rolled back property tax rate. He said they should've found more cuts. Schrader wants to know: What would you cut?
Quick primer: The higher rate would collect the same amount of taxes as last year. The term made sense in boom times: As property values rose, officials could "roll back" the tax rate to a lower amount and still collect the same amount of money as the year before. These days, with a declining tax base, the "rolled back" rate is actually a higher rate needed to keep county revenues the same.
Most property owners have seen their value drop while the rate goes up, so they'll pay about the same in taxes. But each person's tax bill depends on his or her individual situation.
Oakley said adopting that higher tax rate "keeps county commissioners from having to make tough decisions." Keeping the rate level would've meant another $9.25 million in cuts. Oakley said he would've tried to find some cuts to adopt a slightly lower rate.
Schrader said the county was "forced to swallow" an unexpected $4.2 million bill caused by a new state law regarding Medicaid billing disputes. The only way to make up that difference, he said, would be additional layoffs. "We just had a storm that came through two weeks ago. Public works was out en masse. Do we lay off public works employees? Do we lay off utility employees? Do we lay off parks and library employees?
"I just don't know where else you can go and not impact services and the quality of life in this county," he said. "That's the dilemma. If they have a magic wand that tells me where they're going to come up with it, I'm all ears."
Jeb Bush supports State Rep. John Legg
State Rep. John Legg released a new commercial last week in his District 17 Senate race. It features endorsements from two big Pasco personalities: state Sen. Mike Fasano and incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford. For Hillsborough voters, there's also Rep. Dana Young. But the biggest name (especially in a GOP primary) is former Gov. Jeb Bush, who praised Legg's work on education reform.
Did Gov. Scott miss a Pasco opportunity?
Gov. Rick Scott was in Pasco recently for an update on Tropical Storm Debby and the Pasco Reagan Day dinner, but Fasano mused on Monday that the governor should've visited the county's new medical van, which has begun visiting homeless shelters.
This spring, Fasano included $165,000 for the project on the sly. Instead of making the money a separate line item, he put it in the base budget of Public Defender Bob Dillinger, whose office oversees the van. That meant if Scott wanted to veto the project — he and Fasano aren't exactly best buddies — he would've had to wipe out Dillinger's entire budget.
Fasano quipped: "I thought while Gov. Scott was here, we could have had him visit something he wasn't able to veto."
Campaign mailer does not amuse Starkey
In case you missed it: County Commission hopeful Chris Gregg sent a clever mailer last week attacking opponents Randy Evans and Kathryn Starkey, who are in a five-person GOP primary in District 3. The flier includes a cartoon depicting them as rhinos lounging on a beach. One of the rhinos is fanning the other with a large feather. (Get it? Republican In Name Only?)
But Starkey said the mailer is light on facts. She said she has plenty of private sector work experience and never voted to raise taxes, contrary to claims from the mail piece. Gregg cited a vote on the School Board in favor of the Penny for Pasco sales tax, but Starkey was elected to the School Board after voters approved the tax in March 2004. Said Evans: "Maybe he should stick to his day job instead of cartoons."
Commission hopeful hits the jackpot
Rachel O'Connor, a third candidate running for County Commission District 1, included an interesting source of income on her financial disclosure form: $2,500 in winnings from the Seminole Hard Rock casino in Hollywood.
We had to ask her about it when she stopped by the Pasco Times for an interview this week.
"I have family in South Florida, so we went on vacation down there," she said. "I happened to win a jackpot, because I do like to visit the casinos."
She said she's not a card player but likes to try out slot machines for a little fun.
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236. For more political news visit The Buzz at blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.