Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore wants his fellow commissioners to turn down a request by Feeding Tampa Bay because he fears granting it could open the door to scores of similar requests down the road.
Moore urged his colleagues to vote against a recommendation in the county budget to provide $250,000 in funding — over two years — to Feeding Tampa Bay. The money would be used by the nonprofit to construct a regional facility in Hillsborough County.
Moore’s comments came after Pasco County Budget Director Robert Goehig announced the list of budget recommendations for outside organizations for fiscal year 2023 included a new agency.
“The one new donation on this list is Feeding Tampa Bay. We are recommending that we provide $125,000 a year for two years to Feeding Tampa Bay to help them build their new facility,” Goehig said.
At that point, Moore told his colleagues: “I said, ‘No.’
“I have a serious concern about funding a capital project for a building that’s in another county.
“We have not-for-profits that feed people in Pasco County, as well. I would prefer to see those funds going to people here, closer to home, than I would a capital project outside of the county.
“If they were stating they were going to provide so many additional meals in Pasco County that was going to be pushed through one of our local organizations, then I probably would be more receptive of this,” he said.
“My fear is that you’re going to set a precedent here and next year you’re going to have 10 other organizations that are outside the door, asking you do something in another county, build a building, because they say they are providing services here,” he said.
“There’s a lot of nonprofits that aren’t located in Florida that provide services here in Pasco County,” he said.
He asked his colleagues if the board would support a similar request from a nonprofit in Louisiana because it’s providing services to Pasco residents.
Commissioner Ron Oakley responded: “The answer to that is no.”
But Moore said he wasn’t so sure, given the current request from Feeding Tampa Bay.
Oakley said he’s willing to provide a minimum level of support because “they help a lot of citizens here in Pasco County. I know they are here in East Pasco every week.”
Moore persisted: “We have additional charities here in Pasco County that do feed people.
“I’ll be honest with you, that $250 (thousand), give it to our Elderly Services and let them feed more people. We have a waiting list of people. We could divert those funds to our senior citizens, waiting there for more meals.”
Commissioner Jack Mariano agreed with Moore.
“I don’t want to spend that money for capital outside the area,” Mariano said.
He said he hadn’t thought about diverting those funds to the county’s elderly meal programs, but thinks it’s a good idea.
“I’d rather take that $125,000 and feed a whole bunch of seniors,” Mariano said.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she supports the proposed expenditure.
“The number they asked for was much bigger than this,” Starkey said. “The reason I was OK with this number is because we are one of the major recipients of their food program. And so, they’re storing the food that comes up to be delivered to our nonprofits that get distributed to our people.
“That’s why I’m OK with this small amount. I hope one day they’ll have a facility in Pasco County, but right now for the region, it’s more cost-effective to have one big distribution center,” Starkey said.
“This doesn’t begin to compare to the cost of the food they’re holding for our citizens, so that’s why I was OK with this little number.”
Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick also supports the expenditure.
“The number of citizens that benefit outweighs how much we are spending,” Fitzpatrick said.
She said Cathy Pearson, assistant administrator for public services, gave commissioners a breakdown of how many meals are provided and distributed.
“The amount that we’re investing is a lot less than it would cost us to provide those meals to all of those citizens,” Fitzpatrick said.
Unlike Moore, Fitzpatrick said she doesn’t view this as precedent-setting, but rather as a one-time thing.
Starkey added: “I personally don’t think $125,000 will even cover the cost of the racks that’s holding the food that’s coming to Pasco County.”
The discussion came up as part of a budget discussion, but the board won’t vote on the budget until September, leaving time for additional discussion on what the board will include in its fiscal plan for next year.
Moore said he appreciates Feeding Tampa Bay and what it does, but he reiterated that he won’t support this request.
“We should not be spending Pasco County taxpayer dollars to build a building that is outside (the county),” Moore said.
Published June 20, 2022