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Manager to seek tax rate increase

(ran PW, PS editions)

City Manager Vince Lupo will ask the Port Richey City Council tonight to nudge the city tax rate higher next year because increasing city costs and redevelopment efforts have left a nearly $200,000 gap in the budget.

Lupo told council members in a memo last week that he wants the council to set the tentative millage rate at 6.5 mills, an increase of .68 mills more than the current rate.

The millage rate would have to go through two public hearings before becoming final, and once the tentative rate is set, the council can reduce it before final approval.

Lupo made the same request last year, and the council shot it down in minutes. Council member Phyllis Grae, one of the council's conservatives, said Monday that she won't support any increase in the tax rate.

"It's not going to happen on my watch," she said. "I will not sign off on a millage rate like that."

Currently, a Port Richey owner of a $100,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption pays $436.50 in city taxes as well as county taxes. Under the new rate, that same homeowner would pay $487.50, an increase of $51 a year.

Lupo said Monday that a 50 percent increase in insurance costs and utility cost increases for a new city hall have eaten into the budget. And the city's redevelopment efforts with tax increment financing have also taken $80,000 from the budget for later use in redevelopment.

"They all add up," he said.

Under tax increment financing _ the means the city is using to pay for future redevelopment _ all increases to the city's tax roll beyond Jan. 1 are added to the redevelopment fund, not the general fund. The major increase to the city's tax roll this year was the Wal-Mart at Ridge Road and U.S. 19, which all ends up in the redevelopment fund.