Pasco's funny way of saying 'thanks'
The Pasco County Commission must believe the economy returned to the boom days overnight, giving residents a nice windfall and even a reduction of homeowners insurance rates. We can't think of any other reason that a commission majority would approve, as it did on Tuesday, a nearly 8 percent property tax hike as part of a proposed budget that exceeds $1 billion. And on top of that, county administrators want a 5-cent gas tax hike, which commissioners will weigh separately. So much for what attracted many people to Pasco to begin with - low tax rates and a fiscally conservative commission.Taxpayers have every right to give county officials an earful over such an insensitive plan, which wrongly assumes that all taxpayers have recovered from painful economic times, including lost wages, and have plenty of extra cash to offset skyrocketing property insurance rates and high gas prices. Under state law, commissioners can reduce the new tax rate of 8.9 mills they approved Tuesday, but not increase it, before formally adopting a budget this fall. So unless Pasco is facing a Detroit-like financial crisis that has been kept under wraps, commissioners need to do what many of their constituents have done - cut costs. Or do without. The commission majority - Commissioner Henry Wilson cast the only "no" vote against the millage increase but supported raising the fire tax rate - must have forgotten a key vote during last fall's general election. Pasco voters, by an impressive 70 percent to 30 percent, renewed the Penny for Pasco sales tax, which is expected to raise an additional $500 million for county, school system and municipal projects, and environmental protection. Pasco County government is expected to get about $226 million of those proceeds during the 10-year extension. "Hold the line on property tax increases," urged the private, nonpartisan Pasco's Citizen Committee on its pro-penny website before the vote. The Pasco commission's way of saying thanks? A property tax increase. Commissioners need to wise up and hold the line.