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  1. Pasco

The cost to live in Pasco? It's about to go up

The first public hearing on the proposed county budget is at 6:30 p.m. Sept 3, in the Pasco County Historic Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., Dade City. Times (2018)
Published Jul. 30

Tax notices arriving in the mail later this month will show no increase in Pasco County property tax rates for the fourth consecutive year.

But that doesn't mean property owners won't be paying more to finance county government.

The so-called Truth In Millage notices, known commonly as TRIM, are scheduled to be mailed Aug. 16 by the Pasco County Property Appraiser's Office. They will include notations of new expenses — some approved by voters, others authorized by Pasco County Commissioners and one attributable to inflation — that are expected to add approximately $28 to the tax bill paid by the owner of a $150,000 homesteaded property.

And that's in addition to already-approved fee hikes for water and sewer service and private garbage collection.

"These nickels and dimes, they add up to dollars,'' said Tony Urbizu, 77, who emailed commissioners after receiving the notice for higher garbage rates.

Here is what taxpayers can expect:

The county's general fund and fire district tax rates are not going up. They've been status quo since the commission approved an increase in 2015.

The coming year's $315 million operating budget will be financed with a tax rate of just less than $7.61 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. The $48.4 million fire district budget carries a tax rate of just more than $1.80 of tax for every $1,000 of value.

The taxable value of homesteaded properties will increase 1.9 percent, the same as the consumer price index, because of the state Save Our Homes amendment. It means homeowners will see a slightly higher tax bill even with the steady tax rates. The owner of a $150,000 home with $50,000 worth of homestead exemptions, will pay $14.45 more in taxes, the county said.

The county's proposed general fund budget increased $14.3 million, or 4.8 percent, over the current spending plan, with much of the increase fueled by a growing tax base. The tax rolls grew 9.3 percent to more than $29.5 billion in 2018 with much of that attributed to new construction.

A new Hilton Garden Inn in Wesley Chapel, for instance, added more than $10 million to the tax roll and will pay $77,000 in general fund taxes in the coming year. Ditto for the At Home home decor superstore that opened last fall in the Cypress Creek Town Center. It has an appraised value of more than $10.5 million.

Commissioners set the tax rates July 9 after little public discussion.

"I think everybody's pretty satisfied,'' said Commission Chairman Ron Oakley.

Taxpayers also will begin repaying four voter-approved bond issues for parks and library renovations, new fire stations and an expanded jail. This year, the payments will add less than 7 cents per $1,000 value to tax bills. That's an additional $6.95 in taxes to the owner of the $150,000 homestead property and less than $4 for a $100,000 homesteaded property.

"I'd say with just $4 a year we're going to be able to do so much,'' said Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.

The TRIM notice also will include a proposed $7 increase in the annual household solid waste assessment. It's the first of what is expected to be seven annual hikes of $7 each to finance the projected $190 million cost to expand the trash incinerator in Shady Hills. If approved each year, the assessment will increase from $65 currently to $114 on Oct. 1, 2025.

Simultaneously, the county is requiring private haulers to provide weekly curbside pickup of recyclable materials like plastics, metal cans, cardboard and newspapers. Previously, haulers only had to pick up recyclables twice each month.

But the change brought new costs. Commissioners are now allowing private trash haulers to charge as much as $16.81 each month, plus a rental fee for the containers, a 35 percent increase over the previous maximum monthly amount of $12.44. The increase is attributed to the expanded recycling service and a price adjustment for the private companies because the rate cap hadn't been increased since 2009.

The higher trash bills spiked discord among some residents.

"Is it fair? No, it's not fair. It's a rip-off, I think. We're on a fixed income,'' said Urbizu, who lives in the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club community west of San Antonio.

Commissioners acknowledged that better and more timely information should have been provided to the public, and Commissioner Mike Moore was irked that some haulers directed customer complaints to the county.

"Pasco County is not the billing department for the haulers. I don't appreciate that,'' Moore said July 9, "... the county just raised the ceiling. It was the haulers' decision as companies to raise the rates.''

However, it was the commission's decision to increase its own rates for water and sewer service. The rates are scheduled to increase 1.5 percent for water and 3.5 percent for sewer service each of the next four years for the county's 110,000 customers. Currently, a household using 6,000 gallons of water pays $73.18 monthly. The plan, approved in 2017, is intended to help finance a five-year, $183 million expansion and renovation of the county's utility system. Separately, commissioners supported, but have not enacted a separate plan to increase rates again to subsidize the cost of acquiring other utilities in west Pasco.

The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The public hearing on the proposed $7 increase in the solid waste assessment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 3 at the Pasco County Historic Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., in Dade City. The first public hearing on the proposed county budget and tax rate is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. that evening in the same location.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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