NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday approved a preliminary millage rate that hikes property taxes by 4.5 percent to pay for $8 million in road construction.
The vote was unanimous, but some commissioners are hoping to lower the millage rate — if they can get a supermajority to raise the county’s gas tax.
“I am voting for this today, but I’m not going to support a final millage rate with a transportation millage,” Commissioner Ted Schrader said. “I believe the gas tax is the appropriate funding source.”
The proposed $1.2 billion budget sets the combined fire and millage rate at $8.94 per $1,000 of property value. A new transportation millage could bring the combined rate as high as $9.34 per $1,000, depending on the outcome of the gas tax vote
Commissioners agree they want to restore the construction funding, which was cut last year to pay for road maintenance. They just can’t agree how to pay for it. It takes four votes to increase the gas tax by even 1-cent per gallon, but Commissioner Henry Wilson has already said he won’t vote for it. Chairman Jack Mariano, irritated that other commissioners wouldn’t agree to raise the general millage for parks and libraries, said he, too, would vote against it.
“Don’t look for a fourth vote over here on the gas tax,” he said.
Wilson said he would be willing to increase the millage rate to restore funding cuts to parks and libraries, two departments that were hit hardest during the recession. “But I don’t think there’s three votes for it,” he said.
One thing all five commissioners agreed on was to spend roughly $1.5 million out of reserves so the sheriff’s office could switch to a self-insured health plan. Assistant County Administrator Heather Grimes said Sheriff Chris Nocco pledged to use the insurance savings to pay the county back as soon as possible.
“They will pay us back before they lower their premiums,” she said.