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PORT RICHEY SURPRISE: YOU NEED TO CUT MORE

Port Richey city officials thought they were all set.

In the midst of state-imposed budget cuts, officials had already approved a restructuring of the police and fire departments that would allow the city to cut the tax rate from 4.7 to 4.163 mills without facing a tough budget year.

The curveball came Tuesday night.

That's when the City Council abruptly - and unanimously - approved an even lower tax rate of 3.9 mills in the absence of the person who crunched the numbers for the budget: City Manager Jerry Calhoun. He's the one who will have to figure out how to cut an estimated $80,000 to meet that rate.

But council members were determined to cut taxes.

"I don't think we needed his input," council member Mark Hashim said Wednesday. "We are speaking for the citizens. His job is to fill requests."

Out sick and unable to attend the meeting, Calhoun sat at home waiting for a conference call from the City Council approving the proposed rate of 4.163 mills, a figure that met a 7 percent rollback required by the state.

He never got that call.

Calhoun learned of the city's newly adopted tax rate of 3.9 mills from an employee who phoned him after the meeting.

"I was surprised, obviously, because nobody had mentioned it, just going by the last budget meeting we had," he said Wednesday.

Calhoun's not sure how he'll meet the City Council's mandate. Or if that means layoffs or cuts in services.

"They're going to have to tell me where they want to take it from," he said.

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