Pasco County commissioners got their first look at the potential 2024 spending plan Tuesday, built on an unchanged property tax rate but with a long list of growing expenses that would need to be funded by increasing property values and new growth.
County Administrator Mike Carballa brought a tentative plan in which revenue increases were projected between $11 million and $25 million in new dollars for county departments and constitutional officers. An early estimate on the real increase will come from county property appraiser Mike Wells on June 1.
There was also a long wish list from county departments, but Carballa was direct when he said few of the 145 proposals would likely make it into the budget, given other expenses and inflation.
Recommendations by county staff included $8 million to finish the jail expansion, $7.7 million in pay raises for employees, $1.7 million for code compliance officers and $300,000 to build the new fields and facilities at the Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus the county just took control over.
Commissioners didn’t object to the proposal to keep the current property tax rate of 7.6076 mills, which amounts to a tax of $7.61 for every $1,000 of appraised taxable property. For the owner of a home valued at $200,000 after homestead exemption, the annual county property tax would be $1,522.
No increases were proposed at this point for the fire tax or stormwater, but previously approved, multiyear increases in wastewater and solid waste would be implemented.
Commissioners were concerned about several issues, including increases for United Way. United Way has asked Pasco to start to help with the cost of a 211 information line for $25,000. That service, which provides information on community resources, is based in Orlando and commissioners weren’t sure if that was worthwhile.
Commissioner Seth Weightman questioned whether Pasco has become attractive enough to businesses that the county can reduce the cost of providing incentive money. After a brief discussion, Carballa insisted that county staff is always customizing such packages to the best benefit to Pasco County.
The county has also already received budget requests from constitutional officers. Sheriff Chris Nocco, who traditionally gets 40% of all the new revenue from property tax, is seeking a $20 million increase in spending, bringing the total budget to just under $150 million.
In a letter to the commission, Nocco said his priorities include salary increases, adding more deputies and establishing a public safety liaison program to “handle non-emergency tasks for deputies which will allow deputies to efficiently respond to an increasing number of urgent calls for service.”
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Nocco also wrote that, while he is aware that the county commissioners want to see his agency increase its traffic enforcement and enforcement of criminal acts by homeless people, he cannot afford that at this time. Those tasks could require 50 more deputies and would carry a $10 million price tag, Nocco said.
The county’s budget proposal, beyond what Nocco has requested, is to add 10 deputies.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said the county needed a “special team,” including deputies, to take on code enforcement and issues related to homeless camps. Weightman agreed that since the county was paying for extra deputies there needed to be deputies helping in code compliance.