Pasco County proposes 2018 budget

Fees for parking at Pasco parks may end

Pasco County’s proposed 2018 budget of about $1.3 billion will be sweetened with an extra $3 million spoonful of property tax revenues.

The extra cash could mean the end of parking fees charged at nine beach and wilderness parks.

Withlacoochee River Park in Dade City is among the locations that charge the $2 parking fee.

Utah Ferris sold his flutes at last year’s annual Silverhawk Native American Flute Gathering at Withlacoochee River Park. County commissioners may end $2 parking fees charged at some county parks. (File)

Final tallies on the total for assessed taxable property increased to about $24.6 billion, a 7.7 percent increase.

Initially, the county was expecting a total of $24.2 billion, which represented a 5.8 percent increase.

The revised numbers account for the county’s unexpected windfall of $3 million.

This data came from the Pasco County Property Appraiser’s Office.

With the good news on revenues, county commissioners voted to put most of additional revenue into reserves, but also to eliminate parking fees at nine parks. However, the $5 fees at boat ramps would remain. The county collects about $75,000 annually from those fees.

Pasco County Commissioners Jack Mariano and Mike Wells Jr., pushed to end the parking fees.

“I think there are folks who can’t afford to go to the parks because of the $2 fee,” said Wells. “That’s reality.”

Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey supported the decision on parking fees. But, she had a caveat.

“I’m not in favor of getting rid of money (parking fees) for parks, unless we give them more money,” she said.

County commissioners agreed to add $320,000 to the parks department’s budget to cover lost revenues from the parking fees. Starkey also wants the county to create municipal service taxing units next year to directly benefit parks and libraries.

At their July 11 meeting in Dade City, commissioners also agreed to leave the property tax, or millage, rate unchanged.

However, some homeowners could see a slight increase of less than $10 in their annual tax bill, based on a 2.1 percent increase in homesteaded property values.

Revaluations totaling slightly more than $1 billion account for some of the increase in property tax revenue projections. Early numbers indicated about $624 million in revaluations.

About $693 million in new construction accounted for about one-third of the increase. That is about $5 million more than last year.

One more item could make it into the budget.

County commissioners will consider giving $25,000 each to the West Pasco Historical Society Museum and Library in New Port Richey, and the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City.

“I think reaching out to them would be a good thing,” said Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley.

However, he was asked to provide details on how the money would be spent before commissioners give their approval.

Two public hearings will be held on the 2018 budget, which would be effective October 1.

The first hearing is Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m., at the Pasco County Historic Courthouse in Dade City. The final hearing would be at the West Pasco Government Center boardroom in New Port Richey on Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

If Pasco County’s proposed budget is approved, the following nine parks would no longer collect parking fees.

  • Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park
  • Anclote River Park
  • Moon Lake Park
  • RJ Strickland Memorial Park
  • Crews Lake Park
  • RK Rees Park
  • Anclote Gulf Park
  • Key Vista Park
  • Withlacoochee Park

Published July 19, 2017

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