Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Reject idea of tax districts for Pasco parks, libraries

Pasco commissioners already are thinking about better financing for their parks and library systems. Kudos for the foresight, but an idea floated by Commission Chairman Ted Schrader to create new taxing districts is problematic.

There is no denying parks and libraries are in need of attention. Over the past five years, commissioners have closed two swimming pools and staved off, at least temporarily, a plan to drain a third pool in Hudson. They cut operating hours at recreation centers; reduced park maintenance; and charged for parking and participation in organized youth sports. They also retreated from developing a county-owned park in Trinity because of long-term operating expenses.

Libraries faced a similar fate. Since 2008, commissioners cut library operating hours 16 percent, which contributed to a 23 percent drop in visitors to 906,000 a year. At least commissioners didn't shutter a library as had been proposed originally for a branch in Holiday.

Tuesday, in giving final approval to the commission's multi-year strategic plan, Commissioner Jack Mariano correctly wondered aloud how much money the county should put into reserve accounts. Why should the county beef up reserves, he asked, while cutting spending for parks and libraries? Those two departments have been particularly hard hit as part of a $42 million, four-year reduction in the county's general funds. (Tapping $118,000 from reserves kept the pool at the Veterans Memorial Park from closing this fiscal year.)

Schrader countered by suggesting separate tax districts for parks and libraries. "The time has come to have that discussion,'' Schrader told his colleagues.

Under a so-called municipal service benefit unit, or MSBU, a property has to derive a benefit from the county service in order to be taxed. It could be an across-the-board assessment or a sliding scale based on the amount of benefit received by the property owner.

Pasco property owners currently finance separate taxing units for the county fire department and for mosquito control, which is run by an independent agency. Additionally, they pay countywide assessments for stormwater drainage and for the trash incinerator. Smaller districts exist for individual neighborhoods like Quail Hollow Village and Williamsburg West. A tax district to maintain the parks inside Lake Padgett Estates was transferred from the county to an independent agency a few years ago. Additionally, multiple neighborhoods have their own Community Development Districts to finance community parks and common properties.

Commissioners, however, killed their own plan to start a law enforcement taxing district in 2010 after coming to a tardy realization that it would result in an increased property tax rate for 90 percent of the population that lives in the unincorporated county. And Schrader himself helped kill a proposed separate property tax for parks in 2001, just seven months after being elected to the commission.

Pasco County doesn't need the gimmickry of separate taxing units to operate its parks and libraries. It just needs a stronger resolve among commissioners to invest in those quality of life enhancements.

Comments
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

The Trump administration’s abrupt reversal on its foolhardy plan to allow more oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is a win for the Sunshine State, regardless of whether it is based more on politics than environmental concerns. Drilling poses a uni...
Published: 01/10/18
Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Getting to the bottom of the shootings that left two people dead after a New Year’s Day teen party, one a 15-year-old girl, is the job of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators so far have said that the two security guards who fired ...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/12/18