The Pasco County Commission gave first-round approval of a budget exceeding $1.5 billion for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The action came during the first public hearing on the budget, held at 5:15 p.m. on Sept. 8. The final public hearing on the budget will be on Sept. 21. The new budget takes effect Oct. 1.
No one spoke during the public comment portion of the public hearing, and the board passed the budget unanimously without comment — following a presentation by County Budget Director Robert Goehig.
Board members and county officials had discussed budget issues at length during previous budget workshops.
This year’s revenues were less than previously expected because of negative economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, the county was unable to pursue most of its proposed business initiatives for the coming year.
The budget includes a 3% raise for county employees.
It also allocates increased spending for the county’s library system — including costs associated with opening a new library at Starkey Ranch.
There’s also more spending in the parks and recreation budget — related to the county gradually assuming management of the Starkey Ranch District Park.
Earlier in the meeting, board members authorized the issuance of $44 million in the second allocation for the general obligation bonds for fire/rescue projects.
Goehig told board members the funds will be used to build three new fire stations, to knock down and renovate three existing fire stations, and to design a centralized fire training center.
On another issue, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey asked county staff to take a closer look at the proposed placement of a community garden planned for the area where a school, library and theater are being built through a collaborative partnership in Starkey Ranch.
“I’m a little concerned that where that community garden is going now, it’s not going to be accessible by anyone who wants to go and participate in a community garden,” Starkey said.
“To me, that is a long way to go with all of your tools and equipment, to garden. I think it will end up just being the school garden and will not be a community garden. I personally, am not so happy with that location,” she said.
Starkey: “I would like to talk to them (project partners) about having it closer to the library, facilities, restrooms.
“I want to be a good partner (with the school district). I think they want to be a good partner. I actually don’t think that’s a good site at all,” Starkey said.
She would like to see what can be done about finding an area that’s more accessible.
“There’s going to be a lot of seniors that would like to be in the garden. Where are the restrooms?” Starkey asked.
Commissioner Mike Wells also briefed commissioners on progress that has been made through a partnership between the county and CareerSource on a Workforce Redevelopment Program.
The goal was about 150 jobs, for $1.5 million, Wells said. CareerSource exceeded that goal, with 163 jobs. The partnership also led to 56 part-time jobs, the commissioner noted.
“What I thought was really exciting, out of those 163 — 87 were homeless in Pasco,” Wells said.
“That gives us a return-on-investment of more than $6.5 million,” he added.
The county is going to contract with CareerSource for the next four years, Wells said. “They have done an unbelievable job with our team, to put people back to work.”
Commission Chairman Mike Moore also updated the board about activities at Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus, which recently opened.
He reported that “43 out of 52 weekends are already booked with sports at that facility.”
Local programming has begun, too, Moore said.
“They have basketball leagues, they have indoor soccer leagues, they have cheerleading going on, volleyball going on. All of that is already going on, for our local residents. It’s already a huge success — obviously a huge asset for the county,” Moore said.
County Administrator Dan Biles also informed the board that there will be an item on the Sept. 21 agenda to discuss Pasco County’s COVID-19 response and where it needs to go from here.
Published September 16, 2020