The Pasco County Commission has selected its preferred map for new voting districts for the five seats on its board.
And, the Pasco County School Board is set to make a similar choice at its Nov. 2 meeting.
Both government bodies also are planning public hearings on the issue.
The county commission’s public hearing is being advertised for Dec. 7; the school board’s is expected on Nov. 16.
The school board’s desire to weigh in on the redistricting discussion before the county board made a choice, however, didn’t happen.
The school board had taken up the issue at its Oct. 5 meeting, addressed it again on Oct. 19.
School board member Megan Harding thanked the district’s Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd for trying to arrange an opportunity for the school board and county board to work together on redistricting.
The school board had hoped to establish the same district boundaries as the county commission. That’s what it did the last time redistricting occurred.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get to work with the county,” Harding said. “It’s unfortunate that we now have to have two separate maps.”
Redistricting occurs every 10 years, based on the population figures collected in the decennial census.
The figures are used to apportion the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Florida Legislature redraws the districts from which Florida voters elect their members of their U.S. House of Representatives, state senators and state representatives.
The Florida Constitution also requires county commissions to develop a redistricting plan every decennial census to keep commission districts as nearly as equal in population as practical.
Political observers are keenly interested in the process because the way the lines are drawn can influence outcomes of elections.
In the case of Pasco County’s proposed district lines, County Administrator Dan Biles told the county board at its Oct. 12 meeting: “After we sat down with each of you and each of you gave us feedback of what you’d like to see, with respect to your district, we kind of combined all of that and tried to come up with a compromise map.”
His preferred option, was based on input from each commissioner, consideration of geographic boundaries and the goal of balancing population.
“What we tried to do was follow major arterials, collectors, as best we could,” Biles said.
“I know it’s not necessarily perfect, but it’s what we could do best to balance the population across the county, based on the feedback you gave us and make it reasonably easy to describe what your district boundaries are to the members of the public,” he said.
He also noted: “The difference between the largest and the smallest district is less than 2%.”
Commissioner Mike Moore made a motion to approve Biles’ preferred option, which was approved unanimously by the board.
The board is scheduled to have a public hearing and vote on the proposed map at its Dec. 7 meeting, at 1:30 p.m., in New Port Richey.
After the vote, Commission Chairman Ron Oakley invited Gadd, who was in the audience, to address the county board.
Gadd told commissioners: “What I have to say is now irrelevant. In all deference to Mr. Biles, because I know he worked hard in putting this together.”
Gadd told the county board that the school board and county commission met in a workshop on Aug. 16, 2011, regarding the last redistricting effort.
“We adopted the same districts. The school board did that by resolution,” Gadd said.
The board was interested in taking the same approach, but didn’t have the opportunity, Gadd added.
“We thought it was a good idea to have commission districts and school board districts that were the same. In the past, we cooperated on that,” Gadd said.
The county’s proposed map won’t work for the school board because it carves school board member Alison Crumbley out of her district, he said.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the school board and the county didn’t meet to discuss this issue, prior to that decision being made,” he said.
Some county board members said it appeared that a small tweak might be able to resolve the issue, but Gadd said: “None of our school board members have seen these maps. I don’t know what any of them think of these maps.”
School Board Attorney Dennis Alfonso and Superintendent Kurt Browning addressed the issue during the school board’s Oct. 19 meeting.
Alfonso told the board that the county’s proposed map can’t be used by the school board “because it would be contrary to the law.” He explained that a map cannot affect an incumbent’s position.
Proposed maps have been circulated to board members, Browning said.
The issue will be discussed at the board’s Nov. 2 meeting, and the proposed maps will be published as part of that agenda, the superintendent said.
Browning said based on the board’s Nov. 2 action, a resolution and map will be placed on the board’s Nov. 16 meeting, to set the new districts for each of the five school board members.
By the numbers
Proposed commission districts:
District 1: 113,431
District 2: 112,918
District 3: 111,299
District 4: 111,763
District 5: 112,480
Total Pasco County population: 561,891
Average population per district: 112,378
Pasco County, census data
Total population, 2020: 561,891
Total population, 2010: 464,697
Numeric change between 2010 and 2020: 97,194
Percent change: +20.9%
Published October 27, 2021