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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Citizen survey directing budget priorities

LAND O’ LAKES - As attendance at “Citizen Stakeholder” meetings dwindles, Pasco commissioners are relying more on input from the county’s annual survey to determine which programs to fund in the upcoming budget and whether to raise taxes. This year’s survey responses will influence whether commissioners vote to raise the county’s gas tax to 12 cents, the maximum amount allowed by law. The county currently charges 7 cents per gallon. The total gas tax for unleaded fuel — federal, state and local — adds up to 48.9 cents a gallon. This week, the county mailed the five-page survey to 1,200 randomly selected households. In addition to the standard questions about county services, crime and parks, this year’s survey includes a lengthy question about how to pay for road maintenance costs.
County Administrator John Gallagher has called the higher gas tax critical because the county’s road and bridge fund is so depleted. The extra nickel on the gas tax would cost the average driver about $37.50 more per year. “In my parting days — before I leave to go fishing and drinking beer — that is one thing that is left on the plate,” Gallagher told the handful of residents who attended the final stakeholder meeting in Land O’ Lakes Wednesday. “So when you get your questionnaire, you’ve got to help the county commissioners make the right decision — whether its 5 cents, whether its 3 cents or 2 cents,” Gallagher said. The survey also gives residents the option of choosing a slightly higher property tax to restore the county’s road maintenance fund to pre-recession levels. The Road & Bridge millage would cost the owner of a $100,000 home with a homestead exemption about $21 a year. The third choice is to reject both options. “I suspect a majority of people will probably be opposed to both,” Chairman Ted Schrader said. An online version of the survey will be posted on the county’s website, www.pascocountyfl.net, on June 3. Commissioner Pat Mulieri said it’s important to consider all the feedback from the meetings and the surveys. “You’ve got to bring it all together, and you’ve got to have a vision,” she said. “You have to decide if you want the county to look decent. If you don’t want to wait 75 days to repair a pothole, then you’ve got to make a choice.” Commissioner Jack Mariano said he’s leery of asking for another tax increase. He’s not convinced the public works department needs all the money it’s asking for. “I need a little more surety before I go and ask the public to put another tax on themselves so soon after they approved the Penny For Pasco,” Mariano said. “Once you throw in another tax, it’ll never go back down.”

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