Penny tax funds to shift
NEW PORT RICHEY - Pasco commissioners got their first look Tuesday at the list of projects that could be funded by Penny for Pasco, if voters approve it this November. A new fire station in Wesley Chapel and an interchange at Overpass Road are among the projects in the 52-page list. County staff projects that the next 10-year cycle would bring in more than $502 million, of which Pasco County and the school district would each receive 45 percent. The county's six municipalities would receive the remaining 10 percent, to be distributed based on population figures from the 2010 census. For the first time, commissioners would dedicate 20 percent of their portion to create a new economic development trust fund. For the past two years, commissioners have included millions of dollars in the county budget for economic development activities. Beginning in 2015, they would be able to dedicate about $4.5 million a year for job creation incentives, such as workforce training or to build a business incubator. The trust fund also could help finance capital improvements to lure target industries to Pasco County or to build a spec building at an industrial site.Commissioner Ted Schrader expressed reservations about how the slow pace of economic development would mesh with sales tax funding that must be spent during the cycle of the tax. He noted that Pasco set aside money for T. Rowe Price years ago, but the company has yet to break ground. "My concern is that we could set this money aside, and it won't get spent," he said. The Penny for Pasco tax was approved by voters in March 2004 and took effect Jan. 1, 2005, raising the sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents per dollar. The tax expires at the end of 2014 unless voters extend it. Rather than hold a special election in 2013, commissioners want to put the question to voters in November to ensure the highest level of participation. They must pass an ordinance by May 22 and approve ballot language by July 11. In other business, the board adopted an agreement with the Land O'Lakes Lightning swim club to start a new swim team this summer at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson. The swim team already has a similar agreement at the county's Land O'Lakes pool. "They're hoping to build this into a year-round program," Parks Director Rick Buckman said. Parks officials hope the agreement will stave off discussion of closing public pools in next year's budget. Commissioners also agreed to raise admission fees at both pools. A child's season pass will still be $50 for the summer, but the daily admission fees would increase by $1 and adult season passes would increase from $70 to $75. The season pass for a family of four would increase from $100 to $120.
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