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Official: Efficient county in reach

Redundancies in operations could be eliminated, he says.

By DAVID DECAMP
Published February 25, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - Drained by a long day of meetings, County Administrator John Gallagher reacted defensively to a reporter asking how the county might deal with a sudden drop in property tax revenue.

At first, the county's top executive didn't want to talk about it.

Then Gallagher said the governor's tax cut proposals might just shift the burden from one group of citizens to another. Or force a cut in services.

But as he pondered the question further, Gallagher acknowledged that county operations might be able to run more efficiently.

Perhaps, he told the Times, County Commissioners and Pasco's constitutional officers should meet to discuss ways to combine their operations.

"There is a redundancy of functions," Gallagher said late Thursday, seated in the vacant commission chamber next to budget director Mike Nurrenbrock.

Commissioner Michael Cox defended most county spending, but he and Gallagher agreed there might be ways to spend less taxpayer money. For instance:

- Personnel offices. The county operates a human resources office. So do the constitutional officers: the clerk of courts, property appraiser, sheriff, tax collector and supervisor of elections.

- Purchasing. Again the county has a purchasing department. So do the elected officers.

- Information technology. The county has a department to oversee technology. Guess who else does?

One obstacle to combining operations: By law, constitutional officers are their own bosses. Gallagher said he offers them use of the county's purchasing operation, but they don't generally take advantage of it.

Cox said he would like the county this summer to assess what residents want from county services, and how much taxes they're willing to pay.

David DeCamp can be reached at 727 869-6232 or ddecamp@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 24, 2007, 21:53:47]


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