NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco voters will decide in November whether they want to continue to tax themselves for specified road, sidewalk, public safety, economic development, school and park projects for another 15 years.
For the last 18 years, they have paid an additional “Penny for Pasco” sales tax which has allowed improvements not possible through regular taxes and fees. The current tax expires at the end of 2024.
The Pasco County Commission recently voted unanimously to ask citizens to renew the tax for another 15 years. While they didn’t formally approve the project list yet, they did have a draft list of some of their proposed priorities on the county’s portion of the funds. The county’s portion of the tax is slated to be divided 20% for economic development, 20% for parks and environmentally-sensitive lands, 20% for public safety and 40% for transportation.
The tax, if approved, would be shared by the county, school district and cities. Officials estimate that the penny tax could bring Pasco County $1.9 billion more between 2025 and 2039, money that is projected to be split, with 45% going to the school district, 45% to the county and 10% to Pasco cities.
Jennifer Seney, who has been a supporter of the Penny for Pasco since its inception and who serves on the political action committee that educates and advocates for its continuation, told commissioners that they should remember that it was approved in the first place to be sure that old county infrastructure could be updated as the community grew.
She suggested it would also be helpful if the county adopted an oversight committee to give input and monitor projects just as the school district has.
Seney said the campaign to sell the penny tax to Pasco citizens needs financial support “not because there is opposition to the penny per se, but because there are so many new people in Pasco County that many, many people have not heard about this Penny for Pasco and they don’t understand it.”
She said the county needs to keep the history of the tax in perspective. Citizens have been willing to support it in the past because of the focus on fixing older infrastructure including adding new traffic lights, fixing intersections and making other road improvements. Economic development projects added in the last 10-year penny renewal has also been positive.
“There area lot of good things that have come out of that,” Seney said.
At a recent workshop introducing the tax renewal plan, county officials touted past achievements made possible by the penny tax. Those included purchases of environmentally-sensitive lands, road improvements and several major economic development projects including the much-anticipated Moffitt Cancer Center research park planned for central Pasco.
School officials said they also appreciated the school expansions and renovations made possible by the past Penny for Pasco revenue. They said they see the future tax helping to possibly build schools in fast-growing areas including an elementary school in the Bexley area; kindergarten through eighth grade schools in central Pasco and along the State Road 54 corridor; and a school complex in the Villages of Pasadena Hills.