BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
VISIONS OF GROWTH: Challenger Jack Mariano wants to attract more businesses. Peter Altman says infrastructure needs to catch up with growth.
County Commissioner Peter Altman sees the county playing catchup. His opponent, Jack Mariano, is looking for a better balance.
Both candidates for the District 5 commission seat are talking about their vision for handling Pasco County's growth.
Altman, a Democrat seeking his second term, said the county has been reducing its "deficit" of roads and other amenities. Altman has voted to increase impact fees, the onetime taxes on new construction to pay for additional schools, libraries, parks, roads and other facilities for the growing population.
He has pushed for the redevelopment of older neighborhoods, such as East Brown Acres, to improve the quality of life and the tax base. And he proposed the U.S. 19 concurrency ordinance, a measure approved this year requiring developers along the highway to pay into a special fund for U.S. 19 improvements.
"Overall the county's biggest problem has been its inability to catch up with itself," said Altman, an accountant. But he said the county has made strides during his four-year tenure.
Mariano, a Republican making his first run for the commission, has anchored his campaign on the need to attract more businesses to Pasco County. Businesses pay more in taxes than they use in services, he said, and having more local employers would reduce the flow of commuters on Pasco roads.
As it is now, residential development accounts for about three-fourths of the real tax base.
"Not that I'm trying to stifle growth, but I want to see that we have a more balanced growth for the future," said Mariano, a car salesman.
He added: "Right now everybody wants to build homes, and not enough businesses want to come in."
Mariano wants to change that by allowing smaller businesses to qualify for economic incentives to relocate or expand in Pasco County. Currently businesses moving to Pasco must have at least 15 employees to qualify for impact fee reimbursements; Mariano wants to drop the number to 10.
Altman supported the Penny for Pasco, the 1-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in March to improve roads, expand schools, buy environmentally sensitive land and pay for city projects.
Mariano voted against the tax, saying he was concerned by the number of out-of-county contributors in the pro-penny campaign. He said he also wanted more information about it. Now that he knows how the penny will help buy conservation tracts, he said he is glad it passed.
"I want to work to get the best out of it," he said.
District 5 covers the northwest corner of the county and most of Pasco's coastline. Commissioners are elected countywide but must live in the district they represent. The County Commission sets policy and approves rezonings, expenditures and ordinances. Commissioners serve four-year terms and are paid $70,821.
JACK MARIANO, 44, is a car salesman at Coastal Cadillac. He was born in Concord, Mass., and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Framingham State College near Boston. He and his wife moved to Florida nine years ago. He has sponsored numerous charitable golf tournaments to benefit medical research, youth athletics and other causes. He serves on the board and in stage productions of Richey Suncoast Theatre and serves on the board of Dayspring Academy, where his two daughters attend school. ASSETS: Home, rental property, cars, bank account, investments. LIABILITIES: Mortgages, auto loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: Car sales and rental income.
PETER ALTMAN, 47, is a self-employed accountant who was elected to the County Commission in 2000. He was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in accounting. He received his certified public accountant designation in 1987. As a city council member and mayor of New Port Richey, he led the effort to redevelop the city's downtown and to set aside land for the James E. Grey Preserve. He serves on the Chasco Fiesta Steering Committee and belongs to the Knights of Columbus. He is married and has three stepchildren. ASSETS: Home, office, restaurant, commercial building, rental home, stock. LIABILITIES: Mortgages, bank loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: Commission salary, business and rental income. WEB SITE: www.peteraltman.com