Repaving neighborhood streets comes with a cost, but Pasco County commissioners are getting shy about asking beneficiaries to pay their fair share in a timely manner.
They shouldn't be, particularly after trying unsuccessfully to increase the local gasoline tax to keep the program, known as road paving assessments, solvent. How can you ask all motorists to pay higher gasoline prices for neighborhood streets if you're unwilling to require the people living in those neighborhoods to pay their road-paving bills?
In Pasco County, the cost of repaving neighborhood streets is divided among the affected property owners. They can pay the assessed costs all at once or over several years with interest added, but they are not required to settle the accounts until they sell the real estate.
That leniency is now flooding the county's books with red ink. Property owners are $7.7 million in arrears on past projects and county staffers have said the street paving account could be nearly exhausted within three years.
To compensate, commissioners considered a proposed ordinance last week that would affix future assessments to annual property tax bills. It effectively requires payments in a timely manner or else property owners face potential foreclosures in three years.
The ordinance stalled amid commission discussions of kicking people out of their homes, trying to do a better job collecting past-due accounts and whether tax bills should only be sent on projects favored by homeowners.
It is avoidance — particularly by Commissioner Pat Mulieri. She had favored the gas tax increase, but now is hesitant to try to curb road paving delinquencies.
Here's a suggestion: The county should try a one-time amnesty program for overdue accounts by allowing those in arrears a chance to make full payments at little or no interest. Additionally, the county should adopt the proposed ordinance to add the road paving assessments to the annual property tax bills — the same collection method the county uses for its yearly charges for trash incineration and storm water management.
A commission that understands the benefits of safe residential streets should also understand that the people driving on those roads each day should be obligated to pay for them.