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City will consider levying new fees

(ran PW, PS editions)

They've been used to clean up the river and stop flooding in New Port Richey. Soon fees could be used to fight fires and light city streets.

Next month, New Port Richey City Council members will start talking about levying fees to pay for fire protection services and street lighting.

City staff has not yet figured out how much each resident would have to pay for either of the fees.

By leaning on fees to pay for services, not just property taxes, the city can capture revenues from property owners that are exempt from taxes such as churches, schools, some hospitals, municipal buildings and homeowners whose houses are valued under $25,000 and thereby benefit from the homestead exemption.

In the last fiscal year budget, the city launched a fee to pay for water quality and flood control improvements, which cost homeowners $40 a year and commercial property owners much more.

Last month, City Council members considered a fuel oil fee but decided against it when they realized it would raise only about $500 a year.

Utility customers who live outside the city pay about $17 a year for street lighting.

City staff has not yet figured out how much it wants to raise for the fire safety fee. The city's fire department has a $1.9-million budget this fiscal year. But that includes the cost of emergency medical services, said City Manager Gerald Seeber. The fees would not be used to pay for EMS, he said.

For street lighting, the city would want to raise at least $203,000 from a fee, which is what the city now pays for that service.

City council plans to discuss these fees at a meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at City Hall.

If approved, the fees would begin at the start of next fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2003.

_ Jennifer Goldblatt covers the city of New Port Richey. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is goldblattsptimes.com.

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