While the tax increase for fire services dominated the discussion at Pasco County’s final budget hearing on Sept. 19, the overall spending plan covers everything from pay raises to increased code enforcement to athletic field maintenance.
During its discussion of increasing the Fire Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) millage rate from 1.8 mills to 2.1225 mills, county board members agreed to reduce the operating millage from 7.6076 mills to 7.57 mills.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.
In reducing the operating millage, the board directed County Administrator Mike Carballa to make across-the-board cuts, including the budgets of the county’s constitutional officers, where that’s legally possible.
At both public hearings on the $2.1 billion budget, Budget Director Robert Goehig offered an overview and covered some of the spending plan’s highlights.
“Last year, we were here talking about the record height of new construction in Pasco County,” Goehig told the board.
But it turns out this year’s new construction surpassed last year’s mark by about $500 million.
“We’re almost at $2.5 billion in new construction values in Pasco County,” Goehig said.
However, at the same time, he said: “Inflation is taking its toll on our ability to meet customer demands. We have growth in demand for services.”
Here are some of the highlights for this year’s budget:
- Health insurance costs are going up because of inflation.
- The county also must increase its contributions to employee retirement costs because of a state mandate.
- The county has assumed operations of the detention center from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and is facing renewal on contracts that are expected to cost more. A 15% increase has been budgeted for those renewals.
- The county has earmarked $1 million Pasco Hope, to address homelessness.
- Additional staff is being hired, including an animal services officer, five code enforcement officers and detention center crew leaders.
- Additional funding is being provided to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (PSO) to cover the cost of 10 additional deputies.
- A 5% wage increase is planned for county employees.
- Operations of Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus, now being run by the county, $300,000
Highlights in the capital budget include:
- Building renovations and upkeep: $5.8 million
- IT hardware and software: $1.4 million
- Parks and recreation athletic fields: $300,000
- Parks maintenance: $1 million
- Pinehill Park improvements: $1.4 million
- Detention Center expansion: $2.9 million
- Magnolia Valley Park, phase one: $5 million
- Seven Oaks Library: $5 million
Funding to outside sources, includes:
- $19,500 in additional funding for Pasco Kids, which provides examinations for children who are thought to be victims of abuse
- $85,000 in additional funds to United Way, which has not received an increase since 2015
About 40% of the increase in property tax revenues will go to the PSO, as part of an agreement between the county and the sheriff. The split previously was 50-50, but the county decreased it to 40%, after taking over jail operations.
Most of the increases in the budgets for the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller’s Office, the Property Appraiser’s Office, the Supervisor of Elections Office and the Tax Collector’s Office are related to wage hikes and higher costs for retirement and health care.
The Supervisor of Elections Office also will have additional expenses because of the Presidential Preference Primary and local elections in August, and some funding has been earmarked for the clerk’s office to pay for updates to the criminal justice system software, Goehig said.
Published October 04, 2023