By Kyle LoJacono
It isn’t what the Pasco County Commissioners wanted to hear, but it was better than they expected.
Pasco budget director Michael Nurrenbrock revealed the projected county budget for next year with a $5.7 million shortfall, about half of what was expected a few months ago. That was good news for the commissioners after two straight years of budget turmoil.
“We aren’t rejoicing over it, but it could have been a lot worse,” said Commission Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand. “It’s still a big hit to the budget, but after the last few years and what we were expecting, it seems like a win.”
The county eliminated 260 positions in 2009 to make up for the shortfall. It also recently caused the temporary halt of the Paving Assessment Program, which allows homeowners associations to petition the county to repave county maintained roads. That program began in 1977.
The Pasco Parks and Recreation Department also felt pain during the last three years, losing $1.8 million or about 40 percent of its budget, according to department director Rick Buckman. There was also discussion of closing parks several days each week and eliminating some services.
The Pasco Library System’s budget has taken a $2.26 million hit during the last four years, according to former system director Linda Allen. The department has also seen a 20 percent reduction in its staff and a 30 percent drop in its operating hours. There was also the threat of closing the Centennial Park Branch Library in Holiday, one of the system’s original locations.
Nurrenbrock’s projection accounts for a 5 percent reduction in property tax revenue and is a worst-case scenario.
“That’s been the big problem the last several years is the property value keeps dropping,” Nurrenbrock said. “That means less revenue for the county. Hopefully this will be the last year it drops.”
The 2011-12 fiscal budget for Pasco goes into effect Oct. 1. The commissioners will have budget workshops throughout the year, including ones specifically for the public to voice their opinions on how the county should spend its money.
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