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Planning by city staves off crisis
Port Richey doesn't have to worry now that it will lose $100,000 from property taxes.
By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published July 11, 2007
PORT RICHEY - What began as an efficiency move has turned into the city's saving grace in the midst of state-imposed budget cuts.
Port Richey stands to lose about $100,000 in property taxes in the upcoming budget year, but officials aren't flinching. That's because the city already planned to save $150,000 by combining its police and fire departments, City Manager Jerry Calhoun said.
Calhoun said cutting three positions - a captain, a police chief and a fire chief - and creating a public safety director this year helped prepare the city for what could have been a tough budget year.
"We were fortunate because we had already been looking at cuts when we started last year's budget," he said.
During a budget season projected to be free of service cuts or layoffs, Calhoun proposes to lower the city's tax rate from 4.7 to 4.16 mills.
A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of taxable property. The owner of a $150,000 house who took the standard homestead exemption would owe about $520.
Mayor Richard Rober said the city's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, will easily meet a 7 percent cut mandated by state lawmakers.
"I feel fortunate at the moment, from the city's perspective," Rober said. "The litmus test is next year for all the cities. There's been a lot of turmoil in Port Richey in the last few years. But as far as budgets go, we're in good shape."
The city's tax base is $375-million.
The general fund, used for basic services such as police and fire protection, will decrease from $3.67-million to $3.42-million. Calhoun attributed the decrease to smaller estimates for building permits.
The city's Community Redevelopment Agency budget, which was $623,189 this past year, is expected to increase to $913,417.
About $3.25-million of the city's $5.8-million utility fund is being used for a bond issue allowing the city to drill five new wells and end its reliance on New Port Richey's water by the end of the year.
In addition, several city projects are moving forward.
Calhoun said two $50,000 grants received last week from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program will be added to the general fund and used to beautify Oelsner and Wimslow parks.
Also, city officials are working to line up permits for Port Richey's largest and most pricey project: dredging the city's 29 canals.
The city's second budget workshop is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 24 at City Hall, 6333 Ridge Road.
Final budget hearings will be announced at a later date.