Pasco County commissioners are up against a self-imposed deadline Wednesday where they will have to decide how they are going to fund a needed $8 million for road construction projects in the county.
And while there are really only three primary options on the table — the decision is not expected to be an easy one.
County budget director Annette Stahura is set to present those three options and any others commissioners bring up during what is expected to be a shorter-than-usual meeting in New Port Richey. Commissioners are being asked to either increase local gasoline taxes up to a nickel per gallon, increase property tax rates, or a combination of the two.
Increasing the gas tax is going to be the most difficult way to go, however, with four of the five commissioners needed to approve it. Outgoing commissioner Henry Wilson Jr., has already said he would continue his position from last year and not support increasing the gas tax, while commission chair Jack Mariano has been on the fence, but leaning against the gas tax.
Boosting property taxes, however, only requires three votes, although Commissioner Ted Schrader has said he is against increasing that tax to pay for new roads as long as the gas tax option is available.
Proponents of the gas tax say many consumers may not even feel it. Neighboring counties, they say, increased their gas taxes in recent years, and few of the gas stations actually passed that extra cost on to consumers, members of the county staff said. Those same proponents also discount the impact to businesses and such that need large amounts of fuel, since diesel fuel would not be levied the additional tax.
Those against the gas tax, however, say that there are no guarantees that gas stations won’t increase gas prices to compensate for the additional tax, and that the cost to consumers — including businesses who require large amounts of fuel — is unnecessary.
Each penny of gas tax is expected to generate $1.6 million each year, according to an internal county report. A full gas tax could, however, cost $37.50 more per year for driver, or a little more than $3 per month.
Raising property taxes, however, could have a larger impact to businesses than a fuel tax, according to an internal report. While a 5-cent gas tax would increase costs to small business owner by $250, raising property taxes instead to hit that $8.07 million mark would cost small businesses $478.That is based on a small manufacturing business with $200,000 property value and $1 million tangible property value.
However, the impact to the average homeowner for a property tax increase would be just under $20 a year for the full $8 million, assessed at homes with $100,000 in appraised value and $50,000 in homestead exemptions.
If the commission can’t come to a decision on how to raise the $8 million, seven short-term projects would be delayed up to 10 years. They include:
• Construction of Bell Lake Road from U.S. 41 to Alpine Road — moved from 2015 to 2017
• Right-of-way acquisition to expand DeCubellis Road from two lanes to four lanes from Little Road to Starkey Boulevard — moved from 2017 to 2019
• Creation of an automated traffic management system on County Road 54 and State Road 54 from Progress Parkway to Curley Road — moved from 2017 to 2025
• Right-of-way acquisition to expand County Road 54 from two lanes to four lanes from State Road 54/56 to Progress Parkway — moved from a one-year project to a five-year project.
• Creation of an automated traffic management system on Little Road from Embassy Boulevard to Star Trail — moved from 2018 to 2027.
• Right-of-way acquisition to expand Moon Lake Road from two lanes to four lanes from DeCubellis Road to State Road 52 — moved from a five-year project to a nine year project.
• Construction of Starkey Boulevard from River Crossing Boulevard to DeCubellis Road — moved from 2018 to 2020.
Projects that would be completely moved out of the 15-year plan and placed in limbo include:
• Chancey Parkway from Fox Ridge to Morris Bridge roads
• Collier Parkway from Parkway Boulevard to Ehren Cutoff
• County Line Road North from East Road to Springtime Street
• Moon Lake Road from DeCubellis Road to State Road 52
• Ridge Road extension from Suncoast Parkway to U.S. 41
• Expanding Trinity Boulevard to four lanes from Little Road to State Road 54
• Twenty Mile Level Road from State Road 54 to Collier Parkway
• Two phases of the Zephyrhills Bypass extension, from River Glen Boulevard to Dean Dairy Road
The meeting is set to begin at 9 a.m., at the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive in New Port Richey.