Four bond issues on Pasco ballot

When Pasco County voters go to the polls in November, they will do more than choose their elected leaders.

They also will decide if they want to chip in to expand the county’s jail, improve its parks and recreation, upgrade its fire rescue services and enhance its libraries.

In other words, the county wants voters to agree to tax themselves by passing four separate general obligation bonds to fund those improvements.

Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles explains how the county would spend proceeds from four proposed general obligation bonds during a breakfast meeting of The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce. (B.C. Manion)

Each of the bonds would be repaid over 30 years, using revenues from additional charges on property tax bills.

Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles recently talked about proposed bonds during a breakfast meeting of The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce. So many people turned out for the session that some had to be turned away.

Biles began his talk by describing Pasco County’s explosive growth and its expanding needs.

“We’re one of the fastest-growing counties in the state,” the administrator said. “We’ve had about 37 percent population growth over the past decade or so.”

He predicts the county’s population will be between 560,000 and 570,000 when results from the 2020 Census come out.

Pasco is one about 15 counties — among 67 counties in Florida — growing faster than the state average, Biles said.

The administrator also described preparing Pasco’s budget for 2019 as “reasonably easy.” That’s because the county’s property values grew by 9.5 percent, he said.

There’s a referendum on November’s ballot, however, that could create an additional homestead exemption, thereby reducing county revenues.

If that’s adopted, it would affect the county’s general fund budget, which is used to pay for the sheriff, fire/rescue, parks and libraries, he said.

If voters pass the additional homestead exemption, Biles expects Pasco’s revenue to increase next year by about $2 million to $3 million next year, substantially less than the increase it enjoyed this year.

At the same time, the county’s needs continue to grow, Biles said, noting that his remarks about the proposed general obligation bond issues were intended to be informative in nature.

“I am educating, not advocating,” Biles said.

Regarding the proposed bond issue for the jail, the administrator noted the current population of the jail is around 1,700 to 1,800, while its rated capacity is around 1,400.

“There’s a court order that says at 1,900, you’ve got to start releasing people,” Biles said.

Regarding the proposed bond issue for fire rescue, the county would build four new fire districts and reconfigure five existing stations.

“Station 38 (which had a groundbreaking ceremony in Wesley Chapel last week) is the first new fire district in this county in 10 years,” Biles said. “How many people have moved to Pasco County in the past 10 years? About 80,000? And, we haven’t built one new fire district.”

The county’s fire stations are 30 to 40 years old, he added, “and the new fire engines that we need to serve these areas won’t fit in some of those fire stations.”

When the county was cutting its budgets back in 2008-2009, it cut parks and recreation.

“We cut all of that maintenance stuff.

“The parks piece of the bond is to catch up the capital maintenance,” he said.

The library system’s budget was cut, too.

The bond issue would pay to enhance and update libraries, which have not been freshened up for decades.

Biles praised the county’s library staff.

“They do an awesome job,” he said, noting, “they are always looking for new ways to leverage the facilities that they have to help the community.

“Frankly, most of the customers aren’t in there (libraries) for books anymore. They’re in there for the social aspect. They’re in there to connect with the community. They’re in there for Maker Space. They’re in their for small business. They can go in there and kind of work and build ideas.”

“The libraries multiply what we can do in the community. Those are social event centers nowadays. Parks are social event centers nowadays,” Biles said.

If all four bond issues are approved, the owner of a house with a $100,000 of property value would pay around $30 a year in additional taxes, Biles said.

General Obligation Bond Issues
Pasco County is asking voters to approve four general obligation bond issues during the Nov. 6 general election.

The bonds would be repaid over a 30-year period through additional charges on tax bills. The charge will appear on the bills as “voter approved debt service.”

Here are the four different bonds, and the estimated annual charge on a home assessed at $100,000.

Jail expansion
Bond: $132,150,000
Average annual impact on taxpayer: $16.75
Details: Currently, taxpayers pay $2 million to house inmates outside of Pasco County because the county’s jail has reached capacity. The bond issue would pay for a jail expansion.

Fire service
Bond: $70,200,000
Average annual impact on taxpayer: $8.89
Details: The county would build four new fire stations in areas that don’t have any fire stations and replace five outdated stations. It also would add 10 new emergency vehicles and would construct a new Fire Rescue Training Facility.

Parks
Bond: $20,200,000
Average annual impact on taxpayer: $2.55
Details: Projects would be done at all district, wilderness and neighborhood parks. Existing athletic facilities would be improved. Recreational complexes, community centers and aquatic centers would be renovated.

Libraries
Bond: $18,600,000
Average annual impact on taxpayer: $2.35
Details: The county’s libraries were built in or before the 1980s. The bond issue would be used to upgrade and remodel library branches.

If all four bond issues pass, the total average annual impact on taxpayers owning a home assessed at $100,000 would be $30.54.

Published September 26, 2018

Comments

  1. david rosin says:

    The “Fire service” spending requires a more detailed explaination. Each new station brings with it the ongoing costs associated with manning the station. “Biles said. “How many people have moved to Pasco County in the past 10 years? About 80,000? And, we haven’t built one new fire district.” While that makes for good press, it doesn’t bring to light the need for new fire stations. Upgrading existing (more than a decade old) and refreshing equipment is a plus when age places their serviceability higher than the cost of new equipment. New stations bring with it recuing costs that have not been justified by the county administrator.

  2. Jacob Leaploling says:

    The fire department has consistently been trying to play catch up in regards to response times and adequately covering its citizens. This bond will help to build 4 new fire stations that have been LONG overdue. A little research comparing Pasco to likesized counties will show that we are lacking (and have been lacking) in response times. It’s less than 10 dollars a year for the average homeowner. Yes, it would mean potential recurring costs but the cost of not moving forward with these fire stations would be a lot more.

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