NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners approved an ordinance Tuesday creating a countywide property tax to pave or repair residential streets rather than making property owners alone pay for the work on a case-by-case basis.
The ordinance also calls for county staff to create a rotation for repaving work rather than requiring property owners to petition to have it done.
Commissioners hope the new system will end an often contentious process in which residents have to petition their neighbors for support and convince them to pay an assessment in the thousands of dollars.
To transition to the new taxing system, which likely won’t be ready for nearly a year, county staff suggested putting most of the petition-driven paving projects already in the middle of their process on hold. But commissioners didn’t want to see that happen, especially given what a challenging and time-consuming job it has been for some neighborhoods to get their projects onto the list.
County staff suggested that five projects affecting 377 properties that have already gotten approval from the commission and a notice to proceed with construction could move forward. However, 39 other projects elsewhere in the pipeline would be delayed until all the details of the new tax can be worked out next year.
Commissioner Ron Oakley said he had a problem with that because some projects already have been delayed. He mentioned one near Zephyrhills that got delayed to add drainage work.
In another case, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said a neighborhood had been told its job was paused while the taxing system is devised, causing residents “heartburn.”
“When I think what these neighborhoods have been through to get this approval through, it was a lot,” she said. “I’m not OK with pausing, really.”
Pasco Public Works Director Branford Adumuah said that those projects that are nearly ready for construction would end up as top priorities once the new taxing system is in place. But commissioners still wanted more consideration for residents who need road paving and have worked through the assessment system.
After hearing the discussion, County Administrator Mike Carballa agreed that if a project was set for construction in the current fiscal year, even if it had not yet gotten its notice to proceed, it would not be paused. That means some of another 19 projects representing nearly 3,000 land parcels that are nearing construction approval potentially could continue.
In early 2023, county staff will bring a plan to commissioners that will create a fair system to transition other paving projects in the hopper over to the tax system instead of the assessment system.
Tuesday’s approval of the ordinance also includes defined areas where Pasco residents would not be taxed for residential road-paving. Those include residents of the county’s six cities, residents who live on private roads and residents who are in a community development district that already collects assessments to fix roads in their subdivision.
Ken Dabbs, a resident of Gulf Harbors, spoke against the new taxing system. He said he had paid assessments to pave roads in other places he has lived and liked that process. “You’re taking the choice away from owners,” he said, “putting that in your hands,” adding that he saw no benefit in that.
Justin Grant, the county’s director of public infrastructure, fiscal and business administration, reminded commissioners that the change to the paving tax was proposed because the county faces a shortfall of $1.2 billion in road work needed in the next 30 years. He said the county also has been trying to devise a way to provide ongoing maintenance and to assist in improving public dirt roads not currently included in the paving assessment program.
Former Pasco County Commissioner Michael Cox encouraged the board to move ahead.
“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “Seeing the pain everybody went through ... this takes a lot of that off the table to do the thing that needs to be done, which is pave people’s roads.”