Has it gotten easier to fill the long-vacant job of New Port Richey city manager? We certainly hope so, if the reason is a dramatic turnaround in the city’s finances.
The generally accepted explanation for John Schneiger’s abrupt exit from the city manager’s job in October 2012, after less than three years on the job, was either a) the strain of dealing with what an outside auditor had suggested was a debt-related “tsunami” that was supposed to wash over the city this year or b) the reluctance of city council members to go along with Schneiger’s plans for dealing with the debt issue.
Now, however, city officials say their heads remain above water. The debt left over from a downtown property buying spree in the middle of the previous decade by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency has been rendered manageable. With the help of the city’s utility fund, two of four CRA loans have been retired. Peter Altman, the former New Port Richey mayor and Pasco County commissioner who is now the city’s finance director, says he is “confident” the city can handle the rest of the debt load without having to tap its general fund.
In fact, city officials are so confident, they chose the start of the 2014 Chasco Fiesta to kick off a public relation “pride” campaign hailing the rosier financial outlook and other good news. Maybe that news will help the city finally unload some of the land the CRA bought back when — incorrectly, as it turned out— it looked as if a downtown redevelopment boom was about to happen.