Pasco County is planning a fundamental shift in the way local road improvements are funded.
For decades, the county has used a Paving Assessment (PVAS) program to pay for improvements to local streets.
That system has depended on at least half of the people benefiting from the improvement to agree that the project is needed.
The county estimates the cost of the proposed improvement, and a public hearing is held before the Pasco County Commission.
If the county board approves the project, all of the property owners on the improved road must pay their share of the cost — even those who objected to the work.
The charges are then assessed and included on the annual tax bill.
In some cases, the PVAS system has resulted in pitting neighbors against neighbors, as some residents think the road improvement is needed and others don’t want — or testify that they aren’t able — to pay for it.
The issue can become contentious.
County staff has proposed ending the PVAS system and replacing it with a Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).
Justin Grant, public infrastructure fiscal and business administration director, asked the board to give county staff permission to prepare a measure to establish the MSTU and to allow for its inclusion on the 2023 tax bill.
“This is a very complex and multi-step process,” Grant said.
He told board members that a significant amount of time, resources and assistance from multiple county departments will be needed to accomplish that goal.
“The problem with the current PVAS program is that it doesn’t collect sufficient revenues to sustain itself,” Grant said. “This board has heard that a number of different times, in a number of different ways. Right now, that requires continuous support from the board’s road and bridge fund, and/or other funds within the county.
“PVAS doesn’t contemplate continued maintenance, under PVAS assessments,” Grant added.
The system also lacks an effective option to transition dirt roads into paved roads, he said.
Plus, the county needs to be able to do incremental maintenance to avoid high-cost projects, Grant said.
Once the Residential Local Road Paving MSTU is created, those within its boundaries will pay an annual millage rate tax, which will be assessed on their tax bills.
The MSTU will provide a consistent, stable source of funds, Grant said.
Areas that already are receiving services by a municipality or Community Development District, which owns and maintains its streets, are not being recommended as part of the MSTU, Grant said.
He said he expects county staff to work extensively with the county attorney’s office on creating the new MSTU.
Grant said county staff plans to make a presentation in December defining who’s in and who’s out, in terms of the benefiting area.
In the Spring of 2023, it plans to present more detailed findings to the board. That discussion will include a proposed tax rate for the MSTU and how it will be calculated.
Other parts of the discussion will involve how to end PVAS, a system that’s been around for 30-plus years.
Grant said staff will bring back a number of concise options for the board to consider. The goal is to include the new MSTU on the November tax bill in 2023, Grant said.
Commissioner Mike Moore noted: “Madame chair, just to reiterate something. CDDs (Community Development Districts) that currently maintain their roads can be carved out. There are some HOAs, as well.
“That’s important because those folks already paid to maintain their roads.”
Grant responded: “There’s a number of different CDDs throughout the county and there’s a handful that we’ve identified that wholistically do maintenance and own those roads and assess their residents for that activity. The intention of this (MSTU) unit would be to exclude those from this.”
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder noted: “If it’s purely private, we wouldn’t be maintaining those roads. We’re not planning to touch it, if it’s private.”
Steinsnyder added that it will take time to make improvements, through the new system.
“One hundred percent of the roads won’t be done in the first year,” the attorney said.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey and commissioners Jack Mariano and Christina Fitzpatrick said there should be a differentiation in fees between those who live on dirt roads that need to be paved, and those who live on paved roads that need to be improved.
Steinsnyder told commissioners: “Unless you create separate MSTUs, the millage is the millage.”
Starkey responded the board might want to consider creating two separate MSTUs, to address that issue.
Published November 09, 2022
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