As the Pasco County Commission looks ahead to the county’s 2024 budget, discussions are emerging about the county’s millage rate and whether new municipal service taxing units (MSTUs) should be established to address specific county needs.
Commissioner Seth Weightman got the conversation rolling by reminding his colleagues that in the coming tax year, the new school tax will go online and the county is considering new taxing districts for road paving and dredging.
That’s on top of the average increase in property taxes, he said.
The newly elected commissioner said he wanted to go on record that he recognizes the various tax increases and said the board must be mindful in setting its tax rate for the coming fiscal year.
Commissioner Gary Bradford, also new to the board, agreed with Weightman.
“Some of these are a choice. That’s us, up here, making those choices,” Bradford said.
But veteran board members Ron Oakley, Kathryn Starkey and Jack Mariano made it clear that they have no appetite for reducing the county’s current millage rate.
The millage rate is the tax rate assessed against property, with one mil equaling $1 for every thousand dollars of assessed property value.
Florida law caps the maximum amount of the increase that can be applied annually and some property owners qualify for additional reductions in specific categories.
In addition to supporting the current millage rate, Starkey is advocating for a countywide MSTU to address the shortage of playing fields and parks. Mariano also raised the prospect of establishing an MSTU aimed at the county’s drainage needs.
An MSTU provides a mechanism for collecting taxes from a delineated area to address specific needs.
Pasco already is eyeing an increase in its park impact fees, which are charged against new development to address impacts of growth.
“I know we’re talking about raising the impact fees, but that is not money that you can bond and that’s going to take a while to build up so that we have capital money to go build some more parks,” Starkey said.
“But an MSTU we can bond. I’m not saying it should be a big number. I think it should be, you know, $25 or something like that. But it gets some money in the hopper quickly and we can bond it and go build some soccer fields and baseball fields because we are way behind.
“We actually have a Starkey Little League District now and they have no field to play. It’s the first new Little League since I moved here 30 years ago,” she said.
Mariano noted that the Southwest Florida Water Management District has reduced the number of grants that are available locally. He thinks residents would support an MSTU to tackle drainage problems to reduce flooding problems.
Commissioner Ron Oakley is standing firm on the county’s current millage rates.
“You can’t cut back millage.
“There’s a day coming that won’t always be values like we’ve had in the last few years,” the commissioner said.
“If you change the millage rate, you change the ability to ever get that back.
“We’ve got a lot of things happening in our county to be premiere, but it costs money to be premiere,” Oakley said.
Commission Chairman Mariano agreed.
“It’s a different game from what it was, I’ll say, 18 years ago. People want services. I think they like what the board’s doing. I think we should continue on, providing services that they’re asking us for. We’re not just raising taxes, we’re giving them the services they want,” Mariano said.
Published March 15, 2023