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Port Richey considers double digit property tax increase

The city needs the funds and more to shore up its reserves.
Port Richey City Hall
Port Richey City Hall [ Times (2019) ]
Published Sep. 18, 2020

PORT RICHEY — Property owners in Port Richey could see a significant increase in their city tax bill if the City Council gives its final approval during next Thursday’s final budget hearing.

City officials have been talking about the need to replenish their reserves, which are monies not earmarked for specific expenses but are there for emergencies.

Under the proposed budget brought to the council at their first budget hearing earlier this month, the city would end up with a $960,000 reserve. Officials said that should be closer to $1.6 million to meet the general mark for a reserve, but it was set to be just $150,000 before the proposed adjustments in the budget and tax rate.

The rate on the table which got tentative approval from the council on Sept. 10 is a mill higher than the current tax rate. That amounts to $100 in additional city tax for the owner of a property with a taxable value of $100,000.

The current rate is 5.7847 mills and it will go to 6.7847 mills — a 17.3 percent increase. The change would mean the owner of that same property would have a bill of $678.47 for city services.

The tentative general fund budget is $6.75 million.

During earlier discussions, the council considered a rate increase 50 percent higher than that but sent interim city manager Len Sossamon back to the drawing board to find cuts while also allowing Port Richey to give employees a two percent pay raise. City staff found $190,000 in cuts including leaving a couple of positions open.

They brought back a pared-down spending plan which got to the council’s target. But one other change in the plan which raised some questions in the community concerned the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

While the city was on track to contribute $967,000 to the agency, which focuses on projects to improve blighted areas in the city, this year Sossamon brought forward a recommendation to contribute just $31,646. That amount tracked a contribution percentage approved in a previous budget year when the council was in a financial bind.

Some in the community approached Sossamon and posted on social media that the decision could cost money that Pasco County also contributes to the Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency. But Pasco officials said they have budgeted their contribution at $835,159. Sossamon told the Tampa Bay Times that his finance director George Zoettlein had talked with Pasco officials so they were aware of what the city was doing.

Sossamon also sought a formal legal opinion from an attorney who specializes in community redevelopment agency law who confirmed the city was on firm ground.

The budget changes were acceptable to council members and Port Richey Mayor Scott Tremblay said the plan “leaves us very healthy all the way around.”

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The final hearing on the city budget is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m.