Buoyed by an unexpected financial windfall, New Port Richey City Council is attempting to placate swimmers, festival organizers and the residents in the city's neighborhoods.
The nearly status quo services, however, do not come free. It will take a higher property tax rate, delaying other capital spending, and unexpected revenue from franchisee fees — a 10 percent tax assessed to customers of private utilities — to balance the proposed city budget. The financial finagling represents a significant reversal from a city that previously proposed layoffs, reducing hours of operation at the aquatic center, cutting the subsidies to downtown festivals and ending curbside pickup of yard debris.
The total municipal government payroll has not been restored, though the city does plan to retain a swim coach, a recreation center custodian and use grant money to pay for a code enforcement officer.
Saving the lap pool and continuing the tradition of assisting the Chasco Fiesta certainly are vital quality-of-life enhancements. The importance of keeping the pool open 10 months a year is magnified by the uncertain fate facing the only other public pool in west Pasco — the county-owned pool at the Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson.
Meanwhile, the Chasco Fiesta, a 10-day charity fundraiser held each March, draws 140,000 people downtown, a third of whom are from outside the community. It benefits both the local economy and more than 30 nonprofit agencies.
Most importantly, the code enforcement officer and the retained debris pick-up service are vital to a city facing declining neighborhoods. The council already is relying on the Pasco County Community Development manager George Romagnoli, a city resident, to help draft an ordinance to reverse the trend of rundown residential property. Considering that emphasis, it would be an inopportune time to relax code enforcement activities or to cut out a service that could lead to a potential upswing in illegal dumping.
Drawing people downtown or to the aquatic center will be of little consequence if their own neighborhoods are in disrepair.