As Pasco County began developing its budget for the 2024 fiscal year, it was mindful of two conditions that could increase its expenditures, according to Bob Goehig, the county’s budget director.
“The first one, of course, was the stubbornly high interest rate; right now it’s up to about 6%. The second one was the rapid growth in our population, which is increasing the demand for services throughout the county, throughout all of our departments,” Goehig said.
“We thought if we developed a conservative budget that that would serve our residents well.
“By conservative, we mean, we want to go into this budget with limiting the number of new spending … and, instead rely on spending for one-time, capital-type things, just in case things get worse, we can always pull back on those capital expenditures,” he said.
So, in planning the budget, county administration assumed there would be no changes in the operating millage rate of 7.6076 mills, the budget director said.
The county administration is, however, recommending an increase to the Fire Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU). The proposed increase is from the current rate of 1.8036 to a new rate of 2.3 mills.
That increase would pay for salary increases and for additional staff to work at new stations being added to reduce response times.
The additional boots on the ground are needed, county board members said during the July 11 board discussion of the proposed budget.
Goehig also went over other elements of the tax bill.
“There will be no change in the stormwater assessment; water and wastewater rates will be as they were represented in the four-year rate resolution; and, we are in year four of seven for the Seven-on-Seven solid waste plan,” he said.
He also broke down the revenues that the county expects.
The county’s final taxable values received on July 1 showed an increase of 16.5%, Goehig said.
That is expected to yield property tax revenues of nearly $49 million, he said.
“If we take 40% of that for the sheriff, that yields a $19.5 million increase for the sheriff’s budget,” he said.
The proposed budget also includes a 5% wage increase for county employees, increased wages for firefighters and increases to the county’s constitutional officers.
For instance, the budget includes a $1.5 million increase for the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller’s Office.
“That represents normal increases to the clerk’s budget, including things like software increases, retirement, wages, health care. It also includes the increase for Year 3 of the CJIS — Criminal Justice Information System, Goehig said.
“It does not include the $7 million that the clerk has asked for, for the operation of the courthouse annex,” he added.
The funding for the courthouse annex is the subject of a lawsuit between the clerk’s office and the county. The clerk believes it’s the county’s responsibility to provide that funding; the county disagrees.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano noted that an initial court ruling in the county’s favor has been appealed.
“If we happen to lose that appeal, we would have to restructure this whole budget to make that money up,” Mariano said.
He asked what the financial impact would be if that happens.
Goehig said it would have a $7.4 million impact.
County Administrator Mike Carballa told Mariano: “We would have to find a way to make a recurring expense, yes, sir.”
Mariano responded: “So, just keep that in mind.”
Goehig also mentioned that the Supervisor of Elections’ budget will increase by about $1.5 million.
“You’ll notice the Supervisor of Elections’ budget increases in those years when we have elections and decreases in the following years, when there are no elections,” the budget director said.
“There is a Presidential Preference Primary next year, so most of this goes to funding the salaries for those who staff the poll stations,” Goehig added.
The Property Appraiser’s budget calls for an increase of nearly 12%, which will be used to pay for some new software and increases to salary, retirement and health care costs, Goehig said.
The first public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 5 at 5:15 p.m., at Historic Pasco County Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., in Dade City.
Published July 26, 2023