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Commissioners' jobs are all about the bucks

This is what it means to be a Pasco County commissioner: Govern. Watch the bottom line. Have ideas on Tuesday and kill them on Friday. Rush and make mistakes or debate endlessly the same topic.

And that's just in two hours Friday morning.

No matter the subject, dollar signs are the top consideration. It is understandable because being a county commissioner means being overjoyed when the projected budget deficit for the coming year is $5.6 million, 60 percent smaller than the $14 million balancing act the county confronted last summer.

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It means telling middle school children making a plea for low-cost spaying and neutering of pets: Go back and do a cost-benefit analysis and then come back and see us.


But at least Commissioner Jack Mariano smiled when he said, "Help us, help you.''

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It means touting a new convenience store as desirable economic development.

Kid you not.

WaWa, a Philadelphia-area gas station chain that also features fresh food, is expanding into Central Florida, but has told Pasco County its impact fees are too high.

So, Mariano patted himself and the rest of the commission on the back for its plan to lower or eliminate transportation impact fees in favor of a new less-expensive surcharge known as a mobility fee.

"We're moving in the right direction,'' Mariano said.

I wonder how the other chains — RaceTrac, 7-Eleven and the others who have paid the impact fee WaWa finds exorbitant — feel about that sentiment.

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It means pursuing a laudable goal of bolstering recycling in Pasco County as Commissioner Henry Wilson wants to do, but "not doing anything that will cost money.''

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It means wrestling with the notion of turning on lights at night so kids can play basketball in Lacoochee.

Community activists want the lights reinstalled at Stanley Park. The county took down the lights more than a decade ago to stem vandalism. The park also lost its full-time attendant in a cost-saving maneuver two years ago. Installing poles and lights aren't the problem, but covering the annual $4,200 electricity and maintenance costs to illuminate the courts is not part of the budget.

Giving kids an outlet for athletic activities — while simultaneously curbing downtime and the accompanying potential for mischief — should be a no-brainer. But not in today's stressed fiscal environment.

The staff recommended waiting until the Oct. 1 start of the next budget year. Commissioner Ted Schrader agreed, but changed his mind after discovering the county already pays the electricity bills at lighted courts in Land O'Lakes and Hudson.

At least in this case they put fun ahead of finances.

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It means telling the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce it can't borrow the county's flashing roadside signs to tout an upcoming art festival unless the chamber can pony up the overtime costs the county will have to pay its workers to transport and set up the signs.

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It means putting the kibosh on using a telephone technology to increase public participation at a series of upcoming town hall meetings in April. The cost of the proposals ranged from about $3,400 to $5,500 to reach out to the 85,000 listed residential telephone numbers in the county and ask people for their input on next year's budget.

Commissioners indicated they liked the idea at a workshop Tuesday. After mulling it over, and sending the staff on a wild goose chase to do what turned out to be unnecessary research, they decided the cost was too high and the county should investigate the cheaper alternatives of using social media.

Governing in 140 characters.

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And, being a commissioner, means talking, yet again, about fees at county parks. Mariano, in calling for better public input at town hall meetings, renewed his pitch to raise property taxes on homeowners instead of charging $2 to park at 11 county parks.

"It's counterproductive to raises taxes. I'm not interested,'' barked Commissioner Pat Mulieri who reminded Mariano that businesses, too, shoulder a significant property tax burden.

Tell WaWa, she said, how much their taxes will go up.

Nobody said being a county commissioner means you have to be consistent.

Commissioners' jobs are all about the bucks 03/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2011 10:15am]
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