People power

For pretty much any organization, be it public sector or private, the people who work for it are its biggest expense, thanks to combined impact of salary, retirement and health care costs. That is again made clear in the proposed Pasco County government budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

County Administrator Michele Baker is proposing a $1.16 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Balancing this budget would require raising the county's general fund property tax rate by 10 percent. For a person who owns a house valued at $150,000 and a $50,000 homestead exemption, that would translate into an extra $85 a year in property tax paid to the county's general fund.

In terms of county services, the budget would be "flat," according to Baker. Much of the extra revenue the tax increase generates would go to cover rising retirement costs and a proposed 3 percent pay raise for county employees other than those who work for Pasco Fire Rescue, who would get a 1.5 percent raise. While Fire Rescue employees got 5 percent raises in 2009 and 2011, the rest of the county rank and file hasn't gotten a salary increase since 2007.

Baker needs to muster a county commission supermajority - at least four of the five commissioners - to approve the full 10 percent property tax rate increase she is proposing. Since Baker wasn't every commissioner's top choice to succeed John Gallagher as county administrator, it will be interesting to see how successful she will be in convincing commissioners to raise the tax rate - even if this isn't an election year.