DADE CITY — The ink had not dried on their $7.4 million settlement with BP before Pasco County commissioners began toying with how to spend the money.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey first suggested adding $1 million to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office budget to boost salaries — but that idea was quashed.
Assistant County Administrator Heather Grimes said salary increases would have to be funded in subsequent years. “This is one-time money, so be careful what you spend it on,” she said.
Chairman Ted Schrader recommended putting the money in the county’s reserve account — at least until commissioners set the property tax rate this week. “I’d like for us to be able to lower the millage rate,” he said.
They also discussed increasing the budgets for parks and libraries, moving forward with the U.S.19 revitalization program that had its funding vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, and installing sanitary sewer lines in the Pine Island area.
Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. was adamant that it all should go to county employees. “Our employees went many years without,” he said. “This money is not earmarked, and I think it’s time we take care of our employees. Make it a one-time bonus. Our people are the core of this county.”
Pasco was one of several Tampa Bay area governments to settle the lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Tampa will collect $27.5 million; Hillsborough County will get $28.5 million and the City of Clearwater settled for $8.1 million.