MPO board meeting addresses current agendas

The Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization board addressed three key topics during its April 11 session.

Those items were:

  • The Tampa Bay Resiliency Study
  • Future transportation funding, through a proposed transportation surtax
  • A requested extension on a project related to the MPO’s long-range plan

John Villeneuve, director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), briefed the board on Pasco County’s efforts to prepare for severe weather conditions.

John Villeneuve, director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, briefed board members on a resiliency study to better protect infrastructure during natural disasters. (Brian Fernandes)

The county’s MPO has been collaborating with the MPO’s Hillsborough and Pinellas branches to comprise a variation of studies.

These studies are for the Resilient Tampa Bay: Transportation Pilot Project.

“What we’re trying to do is determine with the threat of potential sea level rises, if we have any kind of significant flooding due to rain or hurricanes,” Villeneuve said.

The study will help pinpoint locations where infrastructure could be strengthened to withstand natural disasters.

State Road 54 and U.S. 19 will be closely examined during this study.

Villeneuve’s presentation was informational in nature and no board action was required.

Under its 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan, the MPO also proposed several options in raising Pasco County’s transportation revenue.

It factors in the current Penny for Pasco initiative – a one-penny surtax from every dollar collected in sales.

The referendum initially passed in 2004 and will discontinue at the end of 2024.

Wally Blain, a senior project manager who works in conjunction with the MPO, detailed five possible scenarios:

  • Penny for Pasco continues through 2045, thus excluding a transportation surtax
  • Penny for Pasco ends in 2034, introducing a half-penny transportation surtax in 2035
  • Penny for Pasco ends in 2024, introducing a half-penny transportation surtax in 2025
  • Penny for Pasco ends in 2034, introducing a one-penny transportation surtax in 2035
  • Penny for Pasco ends in 2024, introducing a one-penny transportation surtax in 2025

Currently, Penny for Pasco allocates 45 percent of collected funds to the Pasco County Commission, another 45 percent to the Pasco County School System and 10 percent to municipalities within Pasco County.

Of the county’s 45 percent share, 18 percent goes toward transportation development.

The MPO is most interested in the fifth option, Blain said, because it draws in the most revenue in 20 years — topping $3.2 billion.

However, state legislatures in Tallahassee could change how taxes on the local level are implemented.

“There’s some new legislation that’s pending right now that would look at changing the requirements of passing any new local sales tax,” Blain explained.

Some board members expressed skepticism.

“Are we suggesting that the school district doesn’t need any money?” asked Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.

Starkey stated that modifying surtax distribution might be possible, but that devoting all surtax money to transportation does not seem feasible.

In response, Blain noted that under Option 5, a charter county surtax separate from Penny for Pasco, would be solely for transportation.

He also said that the current 18 percent put toward transportation could then, in the future, be used to fund other agendas.

Blain said he would return to the board with a more “prioritized list of needs” to get the proposal in motion.

Also on the agenda was the MPO’s request for a time extension on a New Vision model project related to its Long Range Transportation Plan.

The $25,000 project is designed to forecast Pasco County’s travel demand, address the need for right of way, and determine how many lanes may be needed for the Vision roadway network.

The MPO asked for a six-month extension leading into October 2019 and the board passed the proposal unanimously.

The board met at the Pasco County Historic Courthouse in Dade City.

Published April 24, 2019

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