Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
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Tax collector to forgo building, lease space in Wesley Chapel

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano agrees with his predecessor, the late Mike Olson, that Wesley Chapel needs its own tax collector office. But he won’t build a costly new facility with a private driving course.

Fasano announced Tuesday he will lease an 8,400-square-foot building at The Grove shopping center just off Interstate 75 at County Road 54 for a new office scheduled to open next summer. The office will issue drivers licenses in addition to vehicle tags, boat licenses, business licenses and hunting and fishing licenses.

“There is a need out there, and we’ve been losing money because many of our citizens use the excellent facilities in Hillsborough County,” Fasano said.

Commissioners were thrilled with the announcement. “I think it’s a great location,” Chairman Ted Schrader said.

Fasano, who has raised the department’s budget by 10 percent since taking office, said he will not need to hire additional staff for the Wesley Chapel office. Fasano’s personnel costs have gone up by $741,119 in one year, partly because he gave all of his employees pay raises for the first time in six years. Each employee received either a $1,000 or $1,400 pay raise based on their salary. Those raises totaled $203,200.

Fasano, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, also created eight part-time positions at a cost of $91,520.

Some of those costs will be offset by new revenues Fasano has generated by negotiating agreements with Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties to return title taxes and fees on new cars sold from Pasco County dealerships. Fasano said Olson never pursued those fees, but he expects to collect between $20,000 and $25,000 a month. “It hasn’t cost our county one dime to get them,” he said.

In other business, commissioners voted 3-2 to deny an appeal over a controversial apartment complex on Amazon Drive, in the Seven Springs area. The parcel was zoned for multifamily housing in 1981, and county planning staff approved the site plan a year ago.

Homeowners have fought the project, alleging that it was incompatible with the area and that it would intensify the flooding problems in the neighborhood east of Little Road. Their cause was buoyed with support from Fasano and from Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz.

A majority of commissioners initially sided with the residents — going against the counsel of County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder. But Commissioner Jack Mariano changed his vote, which required the county commission to hold another public hearing on the matter.

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