Here's an idea: Raise impact fees
During the campaign waged by the school district to convince voters to levy nearly a half-billion dollars in new taxes upon themselves with the local option sales tax, property owners were promised that taxes would be reduced by half a mill each year.
In order to keep everyone honest, the half mill reduction was taken from the school capital improvement tax since the district was collecting the maximum millage allowed by law. That was two mills. For the last few years, the district honored its commitment by setting the millage at 1.5.
This year, the state Legislature reduced the maximum millage to 1.75 mills. We would have gotten this decrease even if the sales tax had not passed. So in order to honor its commitment this year, the school district millage must be set at 1.25 mills. However, that is not what is happening. The millage is being set at 1.5.
The district is reimbursed for the entire half mill reduction before the proceeds of the sales tax are distributed to the county, cities and the district. As a result, if the district sets the millage at 1.5 it would receive a quarter mill's worth of tax dollars twice, once directly from the tax collector's office and once from the proceeds from the sales tax.
The current school impact fee ordinance provides for annual inflation adjustments when requested by the School Board. At a time when the housing industry was going wild and developers were raising their prices by leaps and bounds, the district failed to raise the fee to compensate for the increased costs of building schools. A recent study completed by the district determined that the impact fee should be doubled; however, there has been no pressure put on the Board of County Commissioners to enact the higher fees.
Although housing starts have been greatly reduced and may never return to the historically high levels, the fact remains that each new house built in the county is putting the district further in the hole and the school board is doing nothing to correct the problem. When housing starts increase, and they will, the district will again have inadequate funds to provide the needed additional classrooms. And it will be the district's fault.
Rather than breaking a promise to property owners, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet at a time of high inflation for the necessities of life, the district needs to reduce the capital improvement millage and work to increase the impact fees. That way the district will get the needed funding from the industry profiting from growth.
If the district sets the millage at 1.5, then the county commission should amend its ordinance to reduce the reimbursement from the surtax proceeds and reduce the millage to offset the additional proceeds it would get from the sales tax.
Dennis L. Smith, Wesley Chapel
Oust those GOP conservatives | July 30 letter
What are you about, Hayhoe?
It was with some amusement that I read Art Hayhoe's latest diatribe on the Republican Party, its internal politics, the Second Amendment and, of course, Bill Bunting. Some things never change.
Democrats throwing political stones at Republicans is nothing new. It works both ways. The fun part, however, is reading the letter of a wanna-be Democratic committeeman lecturing the Republicans on what he thinks is wrong with the Republican direction under the leadership of Bill Bunting.
Perhaps Hayhoe should concentrate a little harder on finally winning a seat on the Pasco Democratic Committee and let the Republicans sort out their own internal business. Railing against the clear Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and against the successes of the Republican party here in Pasco seem to be Hayhoe's only platform. We all know what and who Hayhoe is against: Guns and Bill Bunting, but the glaring question remains: What is he for?
Irene Giragosian, Hudson
Suncoast Vacations warning came too late | July 31 letter
Let's be proactive: Shut down scams
I went to a seminar about two years ago with a group that went by the name of United Vacations. They offered things I knew they could not make good on. At that time they wanted $6,000 to join.
I walked out but I wrote to Florida Department of Agriculture asking it to investigate this company so that others would not be taken in.
I received a form letter asking how much money I lost. When I wrote back and told them I didn't lose anything, they thanked me and said there was nothing they could do.
I called consumer complaints in Pinellas because that was where this company's office was. They said they had many complaints against them and when they got too many they closed and opened up under a new name. My question is, why do our elected officials let this scam continue?
Ray Buchianico, New Port Richey