Tucked at the bottom of ballot that’s packed with a raft of dense constitutional amendments, local races and, of course, the presidential duel, is the question of whether Pasco voters will give the Penny for Pasco sales tax a new 10-year run.
On Nov. 6, county voters can approve the 1-cent extra sales tax for another decade or let it end its 10-year life at the close of 2014. By that time the tax is expected to bring in a total of $423 million.
Approved in 2004, the bulk of money generated by what’s officially called the Local Government Infrastructure Surtax is evenly divided between the county and school district with Pasco’s cities divvying up 10 percent.
The county estimates the levy would produce $502 million if voters approve extending the tax another 10 years. The county and school district would each get $226 million with each municipality’s share of the rest based on population.
Even in difficult financial times, approving the tax is important to the county’s economy, Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri said in an email.
The tax set to expire next year has paid for transportation improvements, purchased 1,400 acres with another 2,600 earmarked for acquisition under the county’s environmental land preservation program and gone to build four schools.
Money from the tax was responsible for many of the roadway improvements company officials told her helped sway the selection of Pasco County for a Raymond James Financial, Inc. headquarters in Wiregrass Ranch, Mulieri wrote.
The new headquarters complex in a couple of 100,000-square-foot buildings is expected to bring 750 jobs.
A solid roadway system is vital to bring more companies to the county, she wrote.
Other improvements the tax money could provide are important to enticing industries, such as the quality of life benefits from the county Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program, according to Mulieri.
Under the commission’s proposed division for the new tax, 20 percent would continue to funnel into the environmental lands program.
The county plans to spend 40 percent, or $90 million, on transportation. Another 20 percent would go to public safety with the sheriff and emergency services splitting $45 million.
And not a spending category under the old levy, 20 percent would go to spur economic development if the tax is extended.
Money going to schools also would aid the county’s attraction for new business.
“The penny can provide upgraded technology in schools and needed renovations,” Mulieri wrote.
Public safety, roads, quality of life and good schools are all considered by industries looking to relocate, she wrote.
If the tax is approved, Land O’ Lakes residents can expect to see accident reduction changes at Ehren Cutoff, an emergency fire traffic signal at U.S. 41 and Central Boulevard and intersection improvements at State Road 52 and U.S. 41 under the county’s proposed spending plan.
Around New Port Richey, traffic improvements are expected to include projects at Cecilia and Baillie drives and Rowan Road and Massachusetts Avenue from the county’s share of the tax.
“People would be Penny wise and pound foolish not to vote to extend the penny. The elements the Penny provides can and will be a boost to our economy,” Mulieri’s email said.
Voters won’t have to wait long to begin deciding with early voting set to begin Oct. 27. In fact, about 9,000 voters already cast absentee ballots, or about 3 percent of the registered votes in the county.