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Preliminary budget plan for Port Richey increases tax rate

(ran PW, PS editions)

City council members took their first detailed look at the 1999-2000 budget Tuesday night, and what they saw wasn't pretty: a 35 percent tax rate increase.

City Manager Vincent Lupo said the increase was due to the expense of building a new City Hall when Wal-Mart opens a large store on the current site.

The 1.5-mill increase, to 5.82 mills, would translate into a $291 tax bill for the owner of a $75,000 home who claimed the $25,000 homestead exemption. That's an increase of $75 from the current rate.

Property owners should keep in mind, though, that their total tax bills may not rise. Other taxing agencies, such as the School Board, may reduce their rates, or the property's taxable value may drop.

During an hourlong workshop, Lupo presented a thick packet of graphs and tables detailing the city's plans for the coming fiscal year.

And he held the City Hall construction solely responsible for the tax hike, which is the first in five years for Port Richey residents.

"There are no inflated line items in this budget," Lupo said.

"City Hall is the crux of this millage increase."

However, a review of the city's budget materials shows a substantial chunk of the additional spending planned for next year is not related to the arrival of Wal-Mart.

The plan discussed Tuesday night, which is preliminary, calls for a 14 percent budget increase.

Without the $208,341 City Hall relocation, the city's spending would still rise 6 percent, budget documents show.

Indeed, most city departments, including police, fire and finance, are scheduled for budget increases of between 3 percent and 6 percent. The public works department is slated to get 16 percent more money next year.

The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1, and the council must hold public hearings and vote on the budget before then.

In other business, the council gave initial approval to an ordinance establishing fire/rescue and police impact fees for new construction. The fees are designed to offset the expense of expanding city services to keep pace with development.

The fees range from $7.90 for 1,000 square feet of medical office space to $207.66 for a single-family home.

The council must take a final vote before the fees go into effect.

_ Times staff writer Geoff Dougherty can be reached at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is geoffsptimes.com.

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