Pasco County is facing another difficult budget year, the worst we have seen in my nearly 30 years as county administrator. Decreasing property values resulted in revenue cuts so steep that we have to take a hard look at every program and service we provide for our citizens.
For years, Pasco County government tried to be all things to all people, delivering a wide array of services that our residents and businesses came to rely upon and expect. At the same time, we remained conservative in our spending, decreasing the property tax rate by 40 percent from 2002 to 2008.
Unfortunately, as we face an estimated $17.6 million shortfall in revenue this year — and similar decreases anticipated over the next two years — providing the same level of service we always have is no longer possible.
Over the summer, the Board of County Commissioners will make decisions about which programs will be cut, what level of service the county will be able to provide and what new fees may need to be charged. We do not take these decisions lightly and we are committed to continuing to engage our citizens in the process.
In April and May, more than 1,600 people took part in our online survey and more than 220 attended community meetings to share their views. We are grateful for the positive response our outreach efforts have had and carefully considered this feedback as part of our budgeting process.
In spite of the difficulties we face, I remain optimistic about Pasco County's future. Development trends indicate that growth is resuming, albeit slowly. Building permits, a good barometer of economic health, are up slightly. It is my sincere hope that we have seen the worst of this economic downturn and that the future for Pasco will be much brighter.
Construction will begin in the near future on the multimillion dollar T. Rowe Price campus in Land O'Lakes that will eventually employ 1,600 people at salaries of $40,000 and above. I am encouraged that such a prestigious organization would choose to invest millions of dollars in our community and bring some of its best and brightest minds to live and work here.
Inside county government, the changes are equally exciting. Our recently adopted business plan for fiscal year 2010-2011 strikes a balance between fiscal conservatism and laying a foundation for economic recovery with a focus on job creation, expansion, redevelopment and smart growth.
We are seeing a complete culture change in county government that has resulted in improved customer service, millions in savings in taxpayer dollars and a renewed energy and enthusiasm among many county employees. Things are far from perfect, but we are heading in the right direction and our progress thus far is encouraging. Our efforts over the past few years earned the county recognition both locally and nationally.
We believe these positive trends will continue and we will work every day to ensure that they do. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Visit our website at www.BringingOpportunitiesHome.com to monitor our progress and share your views.
John Gallagher became Pasco County administrator in 1982.