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Quick work: Pasco adopts $1.4 billion budget

The spending plan includes a steady tax rate for the fourth consecutive year

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County commissioners made quick work — literally — of their budget for the coming year.

On the evening of Sept. 18, it took just 10 minutes and 37 seconds for 10 unanimous votes to finalize the $1.465 billion budget and the accompanying property tax rates for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

It would have gone even quicker, but County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder required acting Chairman Mike Moore to read the tax rates into the public record.

The numbers are familiar. The tax rates to finance the county’s general fund and its fire department haven’t changed since 2015.

Sheriff Chris Nocco had stopped by earlier in the morning to thank commissioners for blessing the mostly unabridged version of his $142 million budget, which increased $13.4 million or 10.4 percent, over last year. But nobody spoke during the evening public hearings.

The mood was more celebratory than serious. At the conclusion of the meeting, the budget staff gathered for pictures in front of the dais, while commissioners and staff members snacked on fruit sorbet provided by Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.

The feel-good atmosphere could be attributed to a booming tax base that grew 9.3 percent, allowing commissioners to authorize additional spending without having to ask taxpayers to pay higher tax rates.

The property tax rates are 7.6076 mils for the general fund and 1.8036 mils for the county’s fire district. A mil is equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The total budget increased $141.4 million, or 10.7 percent, with about half of that attributed to growth in reserve accounts.

Increased property values of approximately 2 percent mean homeowners will see slightly higher tax bills even with the unchanged tax rates. The tax bills mailed next month also will include higher assessments for the county’s trash incinerator and new taxes tied to voter-approved bond issues for an expanded jail, new fire stations and equipment, and renovations to existing parks and libraries.

The budget includes 6 percent raises for county workers. Some spending highlights include $100,000 to study dredging channels in Hudson and Gulf Harbors that commissioners agreed to at their initial pubic hearing on Sept. 3, and restoring Monday operating hours at three library branches. Capital projects include adding baseball diamonds to Starkey Ranch District Park, building two roller hockey rinks in a pending partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and replacing generators.