Pasco County approves 2018 budget

Pasco County commissioners approved a $1.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

The budget is slightly less than the 2017 budget, but still has new expenditures for parks, boat ramps and the proposed Ridge Road extension.

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano (File)

County commissioners had a final public hearing, and vote, on the new budget on Sept. 26 in New Port Richey.

There will be no change in the existing millage rate, which determines property taxes.

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.

Pasco saw about a 7.7 percent increase in assessed taxable property, with a value of about $24.6 billion. Much of that was fueled by new construction.

Expenditures for 2018 include $2.5 million to buy right of way needed for the Ridge Road extension, and $1 million for design and engineering of the interchange at Suncoast Parkway.

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano was uncomfortable with the county bearing those costs, when the Florida Turnpike Authority previously agreed to pay for the interchange.

“Let’s make sure we’re getting the turnpike authority to pick up all this money, not us,” he said.

The Ridge Road extension is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a construction permit. The road project has lingered for nearly 19 years.

Pasco puts a high priority on the extension to create a new east/west route and a hurricane evacuation option. Environmentalists oppose the project for its intrusion into wetlands in the Serenova Preserve.

Other expenditures include about $8.1 million to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to pay for a third year of promised salary increases for deputies, as well as equipment and new job hires.

County employees will receive a 4 percent salary increase.

About $15 million is earmarked for the Wiregrass sports complex, which will be funded with a $20 million loan. The remaining $5 million of the loan will pay for boat ramps.

The county is relying on a 2 percent increase in the county’s tourism tax (for a total of 4 percent) as collateral for the loan.

There also is $4.5 million for a district park at the master-planned community of Connerton, off Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.

The Wesley Chapel District Park will get about $2 million for upgrades, including installation of bleacher canopies for baseball fields and the design of a community center.

The center would be built in 2019.

The $2 parking fee at county parks will be ended, with the county boosting the parks budget about $320,000 to cover the lost revenue.

About $1.5 million will be spent for upgrades and maintenance at county parks that are in danger of being closed due to disrepair.

A special disaster fund of $1 million will be created to take advantage of matching fund opportunities with the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Such grants are geared toward projects that provide mitigation for future disasters, not current recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma, said Dan Biles, the county’s administrator.

Published Oct. 4, 2017


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