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Penny for Pasco tax renewed; Hernandez wins School Board race

Two County Commission seats also are decided.
Students kayak at the Pasco Schools Energy and Marine Center in Port Richey. The school district plans improvements at the center with revenue from the Penny for Pasco tax.
Students kayak at the Pasco Schools Energy and Marine Center in Port Richey. The school district plans improvements at the center with revenue from the Penny for Pasco tax.
Published Nov. 9, 2022|Updated Nov. 9, 2022

Pasco County voters on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to renew a referendum to extend the Penny for Pasco sales tax for another 15 years.

The 1% tax, which has generated about $1 billion over the past 18 years, helps the school district pay for construction projects and the county government afford traffic improvements, among other expenses. Final vote tallies showed nearly 65% of voters backed another round of the tax.

“Republicans and Democrats at least in Pasco County have found some common ground,” deputy schools superintendent Ray Gadd said. “You see how they love their schools, their parks and recreation and their environment.”

Support for extending the sales tax another 15 years was considered strong, with no organized opposition and little pushback even in social media circles.

Meanwhile, in the race for School Board District 1, representing eastern Pasco County, health care executive Al Hernandez overtook teacher James Washington in the race to replace retiring board member Allen Altman. Altman spent 16 years on the board.

Hernandez — who was endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — won with 65% of the vote in the final tally.

“I’m just extremely humbled that the community backed me up and supported me through the process,” Hernandez said. “It was difficult, but in the end, the community spoke up.”

Hernandez’s win came in the face of a lengthy legal battle to remain on the ballot. The third-place finisher from the primary alleged Hernandez did not properly qualify for the ballot. A circuit court judge agreed and removed Hernandez from consideration.

An appellate court later returned him to the ballot.

Hernandez said he expected to spend time taking a closer look at the many issues facing the board, adding that he hopes to prioritize finding ways to improve school security. He also will review his board workload, and determine whether he can continue as a Pasco-Hernando State College trustee and county housing commission member, in addition to doing his job at Humana.

“I’m all in” as a board member, Hernandez said.

Two County Commission seats also were decided when the write-in candidates dropped out. Gary Bradford won in District 4, and Seth Weightman won in District 2.

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