Pasco County commissioners didn’t care for the lean 2018 budget, with no frills, they received at a June 13 workshop.
So, they added in about $7.6 million in reserve funds to pay for a litany of items for libraries, parks and public safety.
At about $1.34 billion, the proposed fiscal year budget is slightly more than the $1.3 billion offered up by Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles.
His version of the budget balanced revenues and expenses without dipping into reserves.
Even so, the budget path taken by county commissioners is
about $40 million lighter than the 2017 budget.
It also maintains the current property tax rate. Some owners, with homestead exemption, could see slight increases due to a 2.1 percent increase in property values.
“There’s a desire to maintain a level of service as we grow,” said Biles. “The issue is, how do we do that?”
Since 2011, more than 60,000 new residents have moved to Pasco.
A 2018 referendum on an additional $25,000 in homestead exemptions, if approved, could cost the county about $10 million in revenues beginning with the 2020 budget.
County commissioners met in a workshop in New Port Richey for their first look at the new budget. They must approve the property tax rate on July 11.
Two public hearings will be scheduled before a final vote in September. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
County commissioners quickly zeroed in on initiatives that they wanted to restore to residents, including extended library hours, new ambulances, park upgrades and fire trucks, and new hires for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
“I am not happy with the amount of money we’re giving our parks,” said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey. “Because at $9 million, we’re closing our parks. We can’t continue at this level…I’m not happy having our libraries closed.”
Starkey suggested creating taxing units to dedicate money to libraries and parks. But, budget deadlines stymied that idea, and county commissioners opted to go again, to the reserve funds.
Pay raises for county employees were a priority.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells said employees went for years without raises during the downturn of the economy.
“I hope we can eventually get to performance-based (pay raises),” Wells said. “There were some folks that were very, very, very underpaid.”
The initial budget, as presented by Biles, didn’t have money for more library hours or much for parks. It did have about $5 million for a third installment of promised pay raises to sheriff’s deputies. But, that left only about $557,000 in new revenue, and about $8 million in unfunded requests.
There is potential for additional revenues from property taxes when Pasco County Property Appraiser Gary Joiner gives his final numbers by July 1. The current budget proposal includes preliminary estimates of about $24.2 million in tax revenues. That is about $1.3 million more than last year, or about a 5.8 percent increase.
If final data exceeds that projection, commissioners can put money back into reserves, or opt to fund additional items.
The following items were among those added to the budget:
- Additional 2 percent pay raise for county employees (for a total of 4 percent)
- Upgrades for parks in danger of being closed
- 14 new hires at the sheriff’s office, including a crossing guard and traffic control officers
- Two new hires at property appraiser’s office and equipment upgrades
- Six new hires at the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller’s office
- A “One Stop Shop” for community services in Dade City
- More library hours and design work to modernize the New River and Centennial libraries
• Four new hires to aid administration in rewriting land development codes
Published June 28, 2017