As Pasco County’s elected board considers next year’s budget, there is talk of a possible new tax that would pay to expand park and recreational opportunities.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey floated the idea of creating a Parks Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) during the board’s Jan. 18 strategic plan and budget workshop.
“I have always been an advocate for a Parks MSTU because we are so far behind,” Starkey said, reiterating a suggestion she has made before.
“An example of that is we have a new charter Little League in Starkey Ranch with no fields. They were warned there weren’t any fields, but District 12 went ahead and chartered them anyway. They’re supposed to be playing at Bexley, at the new Little League Complex that we don’t have the money to build yet in Bexley.
“We’re still way behind in sports fields for our youth. I also think that parks are important for people my age, too. Just nice outdoor places to go.
“We have the opportunity to have wonderful places. We don’t have the money to make them wonderful.,” Starkey said.
The county board member said she’s not suggesting the creation of a big-dollar MSTU, but noted establishing an MSTU would provide a reliable source of revenues for parks.
The county has impact fees to address additional parks and recreation needs caused by new growth, but those fees cannot be used to address a backlog of needs and cannot be bonded.
The Parks MSTU would enable the county to do more sooner, Starkey said.
The county board member also noted that the county was forced to use the money that was going to go for Magnolia Valley Park because another park project’s costs increased and the Magnolia Valley money was used for that.
“Now, we don’t have that money anymore,” Starkey said. “We had a great plan for Magnolia Valley.”
She also pointed to an opportunity for the county to establish a park in a part of Holiday that has never had a park, and it even has a boat launch.
“I think it’s really, really important for that community. And, again, we’re restricted,” Starkey said.
Commissioner Seth Weightman said he’d like to see an analysis of how much general fund millage would decrease, if all of the general fund money being used for parks was shifted to an MSTU.
Doing that, Weightman said, “would give parks pretty much a guaranteed revenue source, even in tough times.”
As the county discusses the potential of a new MSTU for parks, it also is in the midst of pursuing the creation of a Residential Local Road MSTU.
The county board directed county staff last year to prepare to add a new Residential Local Road MSTU to property owner tax bills.
That tax will replace the Paving Assessment (PVAS) system that the county has used for decades.
Under PVAS, the owners of the majority of property along a street had to agree to an improvement and then file an application with the county to pursue it.
If the county board approved the application, the homeowners would be assessed on their tax bills over time to pay for it.
All of the homeowners on the street would have to pay, whether they favored the project or not.
The system pitted neighbors against neighbors, and in some cases, property owners would tell the county board that they simply couldn’t afford to pay the assessments.
The new Residential Local Road MSTU will appear on tax bills and will provide a source of revenue for local road projects, maintenance, and in limited cases, sidewalk projects.
The boundaries of the Residential Local Road MSTU includes all unincorporated areas of Pasco County, except for parcels that currently — or in the future —
are subject to, or within the boundaries of, an Active PVAS; and, parcels within a Homeowners’ Association or Community Development District that maintains its private roads.
The county board also has granted property owners who have paid or are paying their PVAS assessments a two-year reprieve from the new assessment. They said some sort of reprieve is only fair, but they don’t want to make the tax break too long because they don’t want to cripple the system.
County staff is proceeding with preparing the new system to be ready in time for the tax bills going out in November.
Meanwhile, a determination will be made regarding who is listed on the final tax roll for the MSTU, and the county board will decide what the millage rate should be.
Published February 07, 2024