Schools like Wesley Chapel (above) and Wiregrass Ranch high schools are slated to receive upgrades paid for with Penny for Pasco proceeds if the renewal of the one-cent tax passes in November.  (Photo: Charmaine George)

It’s officially campaign season and one of the most noteworthy items on the ballot isn’t a Democrat or a Republican.

It’s the Penny for Pasco sales tax referendum.

By a 5-0 vote, the Pasco Board of County Commissioners (BOC) voted to put the referendum on the Aug. 23 Primary Election ballot, hoping for it to be renewed for another 15 years.

The current Penny for Pasco tax expires in 2024. If renewed for a third time, the penny tax is expected to produce $1.9 billion from 2025 through 2039.

The Penny for Pasco revenues are used for a number of quality of life improvements throughout the county — for things like fire rescue services, roads and sidewalks, new schools and parks and economic development.

The money is split between the Pasco School District (45 percent), the county (45 percent) and Pasco’s municipalities, including Dade City, Zephyrhills, New Port Richey and others (10 percent).

Wesley Chapel’s Jennifer Seney told the Pasco BOC not to get complacent when pushing for the Penny for Pasco renewal. Seney was one of the community leaders in 2004 who pushed to get the first referendum passed by advocating for it and rounding up support. It wasn’t easy. The referendum passed 52-48 percent but it was a hard and bitter fight.

“This campaign needs a lot of money now this time around,” says Seney, who serves on a Penny political action committee that supports and seeks to educate people on the sales tax. “Not due to opposition, per se, but because there are so many new people to Pasco County that have not heard about this Penny for Pasco and don’t understand it.”

Seney also suggested a citizens’ oversight committee for the Penny for Pasco projects, similar to what the school district has in place.

The first Penny for Pasco produced $320 million in revenue. In 2012, economic development was included in the revenue usage and it passed easily with almost 70 percent of the vote. It is expected to bring in $700 million by the time it expires in December 2024.

A formal Penny for Pasco project list is expected to be presented on July 12. A draft of that list includes projects that would impact Wesley Chapel residents, like new fire rescue and sheriff’s office vehicles, school sidewalk projects at Curley Rd. affecting Wesley Chapel Elementary, Weightman Middle School and Wesley Chapel High, improvements on Old Pasco Rd. and others.

The Pasco School Board already has its list of projected projects, and it includes school renovations at Wesley Chapel High ($35.8 million), athletic facility renovations at Wesley Chapel ($1.7 million) and Wiregrass Ranch ($1.8) high schools, cafeteria renovations at Wesley Chapel High ($2.7 million) and several other improvements.

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