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Pasco commissioners set tentative rates for new road and park maintenance taxes

Pasco officials say their new road maintenance plan will lengthen the life of the county’s roads, provide a more equitable way to pay the cost and will begin to bring the transportation network up to par with the growing community it has become.

It’s also going to cost more on everyone’s property tax bill.

In fact the county’s property owners will see two new taxes on their tax bills later this year.

To address the ongoing maintenance of county roads and parks, Pasco County commissioners this week approved tentative rates for the new taxes. They would add another $113 onto the county property tax bill for the owner of a median-valued home, figured to have a taxable value of $163,579 after exemptions.

Countywide, those new taxes are expected to bring in $8.2 million for maintenance of county parks and $24.8 million for roads during the next fiscal year.

The vote this week is a proposed increase because tax rates are not final until the last public hearing on the budget in September. Other portions of the tax bill given a first approval this week include the general fund tax and the fire tax, which are both at the same rate as last year.

Commissioners were also told that final taxable property values for the county were up slightly from the June estimate with an increase of 14.1% over last year’s values. The increase since June brings another $5 million into county coffers with 40% of that earmarked for use by the sheriff.

Because of the public interest on the new road maintenance tax, county officials held a news conference Wednesday morning to help residents better understand it. The new tax replaces the previous residential road paving assessment system. That program required residents to petition for work in their neighborhoods and face an assessment specific to their community.

That original paving system grew out of a time when rural areas of east Pasco didn’t want to help pay for road work in developing west Pasco, said County Commission Chairman Ron Oakley. One reason commissioners said they supported getting rid of that system was because it often pitted neighbor against neighbor.

County Administator Mike Carballa said Wednesday that the new road paving system was going to be fair and “a smart way” to keep roads maintained.

Officials directed the community to look at the county’s website for information on the new system, which it described as “a modern, equitable way of distributing the tax burden for road improvement projects throughout the county, instead of placing the burden on a specific geographic area. The new system provides long-term funding for incremental maintenance, helping roads last longer and avoiding costly repairs.”

According to the county’s site, the funds will pay for “any upgrades for Pasco County infrastructure assets located in the right-of-way, road repaving and rehabilitation, street signs, striping, road-related drainage, such as culverts, swales, etc.”

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Roads inside the city limits in Pasco are excluded.

Part of the new plan approved Tuesday was to forgive outstanding payments on road paving assessments approved before, although delinquent payments are still owed to the county. Staff detailed the loss in revenue would include $8.5 million in current principal and interest for ongoing paving assessment projects and $4.5 million in future payments.

The new system will include a detailed assessment of roads throughout the county, determining a priority list based on need and interim improvements to lengthen the life of a road before a full re-paving is necessary. That system will include both residential roads and roads connecting communities.

The first of two public hearings on the tax rates and county budget is set for 5:15 p.m. on September 3 in the Dade City Historic Courthouse.

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