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PORT RICHEY OPTS AGAINST TAX RATE HIKE

The council reverses its earlier decision, citing likely backlash.

There won't be a property tax rate increase in Port Richey after all.

Last week, two City Council members reversed course from two weeks before and decided against increasing the millage rate for the new fiscal year, saying it was not worth the criticism the board would take from the public.

On Sept. 11, the council voted 3-2 for a tentative property tax rate hike from 5.4348 to 5.6188 for fiscal year 2014-15. But Mayor Eloise Taylor said negative feedback she received led her to change her mind and stick with the current rate. She was joined by council member Bill Colombo, who also changed his position, as well as Terry Rowe and Nancy Britton - the two members who initially voted against a hike - in voting to keep the rate the same.

"The revenue we would raise is kind of minor in the face of the pushback and the unhappiness of our residents over raising taxes," Taylor said.

The reversal means a loss of about $43,000 in new revenue. Keeping the property tax rate the same will not affect the $10.9 million budget, which was set last week based on the current millage rate. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 worth of a property's assessed value. The owner of a property valued at $100,000 would pay $543 in city taxes next year.

Council member Steve O'Neill was the only one to vote against keeping the rate the same. For months he has called for a rate increase, expressing concern over dwindling reserves and the city's use of Community Redevelopment Agency funds to supplement employee salaries, which are normally covered by the general fund. The budget has also taken a hit as red-light camera revenue significantly decreased.

City Manager Tom O'Neill has called on council members to explore other revenue generators such as a street light utility fee, debris collection and waste hauler franchise fees, and increasing existing stormwater utility and impact fees.

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