By Kyle LoJacono
After months of debating, speculation and tough decisions, the Pasco Commission approved the county’s budget for next year.
The commissioners heard public outcry from those wanting to keep certain government programs going during the down economy, but the board’s final budget seems to have quieted down those critical voices.
In the end only one citizen showed up to the approval meeting, where he gave his compliments to the commissioners for their compromising efforts.
“We took care of the sheriff, we took care of the swimmers, and we took care of the veterans,” said Commissioner Pat Mulieri.
The new budget, which runs from Oct. 1 through September 2012, includes $83.3 million for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. The plan includes $1.6 million for 23 new staffers to specifically help fight prescription drug use within the county.
The sheriff’s office will hire 10 detectives and two sergeants to create two new squads to battle drug abuse, eight nurses for the Land O’ Lake Detention Center to help with inmate drug issues and three detectives to form a new intelligence-led policing unit to identify problem areas.
The $1.1 billion budget also includes $160,000 to keep the county’s last two public pools open. However, swimmers at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex and Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson will have to pay an additional $1 per day to use the facilities next year.
The commissioners and parks department had proposed closing both pools to save about $300,000 but changed their minds when the Land O’ Lakes Lightning swimming club agreed to take on some of the operating costs for the central Pasco facility.
So far no group has stepped up to help run the west Pasco pool. The commissioners agreed to close the facility if no one steps up to help run the site by the end of next year.
The commissioners had also planned to cut veteran’s services by $15,800 but agreed to keep funding at its current level.
In addition, the new budget keeps the current tax rate of $7.86 for every $1,000 of property value.
The county’s financial plan was passed by a 4-1 margin, with only Commissioner Jack Mariano voting against it.
“I couldn’t vote for a budget that includes the user fees for parks,” Mariano said.
The county put in a $2 fee last year to use several parks as a way to generate revenue to keep them open seven days a week. Mulieri chastised Mariano for his decision.
“If the people agreed with you — where are they?” Mulieri asked. “You have to know when to fold them. This is the time to fold.”
Mulieri later explained Mariano said he had heard from many people upset with the budget, but none of them showed up to the meeting to voice their concerns.
To view the entire county budget, visit portal.pascocountyfl.net.
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