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Tax tradeoff proposal collects support

County commissioners on Tuesday welcomed the idea of packaging Penny for Pasco with a reduction of the property tax rate.

Four commissioners told their staff to research the proposal during a meeting at the Historic County Courthouse in Dade City. Commissioner Pat Mulieri was absent.

The commission brought up the matter in response to reported comments by Commissioner Ted Schrader. Schrader has told the Times that he wants the county, School Board and cities to consider reducing property tax rates if the public passes a 1-cent increase in the sales tax.

The sales tax hike question is supposed to appear on the ballot in November 2004.

Hildebrand called Schrader's proposal a "great idea."

Simon agreed, but questioned if the swap of funds is legal.

"If it's allowable, should it be done? Absolutely," he said.

County Administrator John Gallagher said that sales tax money could be spent on capital, or construction, projects, as long as property tax dollars hadn't already been slated or budgeted to pay for them.

The extra sales tax is expected to raise $31-million a year.

In other business Tuesday, the commission voted 4-0 to further restrict a job training center in Dade City for troubled youth.

Last month, commissioners said the Three H Learning Center and Florida Youth Conservation Corps could operate in an agricultural-residential district. After noise complaints by neighbors, the commission ruled in April 2001 that the center no longer could assemble or manufacture highway signs on the site.

The commissioners during the February hearing said the operation can assemble, but not manufacture, signs. Also, they told the nonprofit operation to remove scrap metal from the property and no longer store highway construction material on site.

On Tuesday, in finalizing their order, commissioners said the employees could not bring any material onto the center's property at all that wasn't directly used for the signs, including guardrails and poles. They also restricted access to the property to one corner of the site after neighbors complained that operation leader Bart Colom was moving construction material back and forth between his adjacent property and the learning center. Neighbors also provided pictures of a gate on a road they said Colom rammed with his truck.

Timothy Driscoll, attorney for the nonprofit operation, said the restrictions on the materials would create a hardship, forcing the learning center to buy storage space it can't afford.

_ Saundra Amrhein covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is amrheinsptimes.com.

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