By Kyle LoJacono
Pasco County government will have to lay off 14 workers to make its budget for next year, but the total will not likely add to the area’s unemployment numbers.
County Administrator John Gallagher’s spending plan for the 2011-12 fiscal year is roughly the same as the current budget; just more than $1 billion. The proposal cuts 31 jobs, of which only 14 are currently filled.
Fortunately for those affected, the county will add 14 new positions in other departments with similar job descriptions. Those affect will be given first priority for those new jobs, according to Gallagher.
“Most of the jobs would be cut from departments that are paid for with property taxes, like the parks department,” Gallagher said. “The new jobs will be in utilities and stormwater departments. Those are paid for with fees.”
The proposed budget Gallagher presented is based on the assumption the county commissioners will not raise the property tax rate.
Pasco property appraiser Mike Wells said the value of property dropped 2.5 percent this year, but predicts the prices have bottomed out.
“I think we might be at or very near the bottom,” Wells said.
Also, for the fourth straight year, county workers will not receive a raise.
The proposal also calls for closing the remaining two public swimming pools, located in Land O’ Lakes and Hudson, to save $290,000 in annual operating costs and $100,000 in repairs. County Commissioner Jack Mariano said he will not vote for a budget that includes drying up the facilities.
“It’s vital that we have these pools open,” Mariano said. “I think we could work a deal to keep them open with private companies running them. That will keep the cost down.”
County parks director Rick Buckman said he has a tentative agreement with the Land O’ Lakes Lightning swimming club to operate the pool at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex on Collier Parkway. He did not elaborate on any details, except the plan would include some public use. Buckman said no club has stepped up to help run the pool in Hudson.
The swimming and diving teams from Land O’ Lakes, Sunlake, River Ridge and Hudson high schools use the public pools for home meets and practices. Buckman said he will be meeting with the coaches from the schools to discuss further options.
While raises and pools may be on the chopping block, Pasco’s budget situation could have been a lot worse if the county hadn’t saved $4.2 million from the current fiscal year. Additionally, the state Legislature’s new requirement for government workers to contribute 3 percent toward their own pension plan saved another $5.6 million.
The proposed budget will continue to be discussed at various workshops and commission meetings before being adopted in September. It will need to be approved to go in place by Oct.1.
For more information on the Pasco budget, visit portal.pascocountyfl.net.
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