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Budget requests require tax hike

Property taxes would have to increase under the proposed 1995-96 county budget being submitted to the Pasco County Commission next week.

Mike Nurrenbrock, county budget director, would not give specific numbers, but "I would say that it's going to be a significant increase over this year. I am sure that the Board of County Commissioners won't find it acceptable and that they are going to look for ways to bring it down."

County Administrator John Gallagher also suspects that commissioners will cut the budget being submitted Tuesday.

"Historically, that number has always gone down by Sept. 30," the deadline for the County Commission to approve its annual budget, Gallagher said.

Gallagher's department heads have made every effort to keep their budgets as close to this year's numbers as possible, he said.

"We get the same bills everybody else gets and we don't get any breaks," Gallagher said. "It's just like running a very big household. But we have stayed with the policy of basically no new programs."

Many of the requested spending increases come from the county's constitutional officers, whose budgets don't fall under Gallagher's jurisdiction.

For instance, Sheriff Lee Cannon, whose budget requests have resulted in uproars in past years, has asked for a 12 percent increase to pay for more deputies.

Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning has asked for a 11.8 percent increase to help pay for additional labor needed for the upcoming presidential election year.

Property Appraiser Ted Williams has asked for a 5.4 percent increase. And Clerk of the Court Jed Pittman has requested a 3 percent increase. Tax Collector Mike Olson has not submitted his budget yet.

"The constitutional officers, we put their requests in at what they have requested," Nurrenbrock said, adding that it's up to the County Commission to review the budgets.

Any increase would raise the county's tax rate close to the allowable cap. This year it is $8.81 per $1,000 of taxable, appraised property value. The cap is $10 per $1,000 in value.

"Every year we get closer to the magic mark," Gallagher said.

The county's tax roll was helped some this year by a 3 percent increase in property values. That's better than the increases of less than 1 percent over the past two years, but nowhere near the 10 percent increases that were common more than a decade ago.

The tax base was hurt further by new legislation that caps how much a home's tax appraisal can go up each year. If not for the cap, the county's total property would be appraised $28-million higher, according to the tax appraiser's office.

"We just have to try to live within our means," Gallagher said. "If people want more services, we just can't afford them."