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New Port Richey wants projects sans tax bite

The council endorses $4-million in projects for next year, but no more than half a mill in tax increases.

The City Council on Tuesday night told administrators to put $4-million in new improvement projects in next year's budget, including a $400,000 renovation of the city pool. But they also told administrators to keep any increase to the city's property tax levy to no more than one-half mill.

City Manager George Seeber said Wednesday that he's not sure the $4-million in priority projects can be included in the budget with only a one-half mill increase. A mill is $1 in property tax for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property.

Seeber has until about the first week of September to squeeze as many of the projects as he can into the budget. The first public hearing for the budget is set for Sept. 15.

"Something has to come out of the budget," Seeber said.

The council's project recommendations included the pool renovation, $1.5-million for a new police station, $600,000 for drainage projects, $225,000 to improve three new parks and $750,000 for neighborhood improvement projects.

The council also wanted an additional $50,000 in the budget for miscellaneous projects and $75,000 for improvements to U.S. 19 through a state road beautification program.

The pool project would add a waterslide, kiddie pools, volleyball nets and other fun stuff at the pool at the city's recreation center on Van Buren Road.

Linda Cassidy, who oversees the city's aquatics programs, said the improvements would make the pool more accessable to parents with young children. Currently, the L-shaped pool works well for swimming lessons and two high school swim teams that compete there, but it isn't very family-friendly, she said.

Cities that have had similar pool renovations have seen their attendance triple, Cassidy said. Over a nine-month period last year, 30,422 people used the pool, which was built in 1975.

"Costs are rising to operate the facility, but attendance is down because there's not much fun stuff to do," she said. "We're trying to make it more accessible."

The council also recommended giving $50,000 to the New Port Richey Community Cooperative, which helps promote the city's downtown. A few of the council members quizzed cooperative officials about the viability of a planned Shakespeare project. An article in Saturday's Times questioned whether the project would come together.

Tom Marsh, the cooperative's acting executive director, said plans for the festival are moving along. The play's cast is beginning rehearsals, vendors have been recruited for the three-day event and $900 has been paid to a company to provide jousters, Marsh said.

"The festival is going on," he told the council.

The council turned down several other projects, including making the city's offices hurricane-proof and alleviating flooding problems on E Main Street.

_ Staff writer Kent Fischer can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241. His e-mail address is kfischersptimes.com.

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