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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Billiris, Latvala spar on taxes.



In brief statements at a Bellair Republican Women's Club forum, Republicans Beverley Billiris and Susan Latvala sparred over the taxes and county spending.

Billiris used her tenure as a Tarpon Springs city commissioner and then mayor to distinguish her record versus Latvala, a county commissioner for the north Pinellas district since 2000.

"We lowered taxes, an 8.36 (percent) decrease in taxes over that period, we had no layoffs," said Billiris, who spent most of the last decade in office until March. "We did not cut services as the county has and I left with a strong reserve. If a small city can do it, why can’t the county?"

The county has faced $80 million in shortfalls over the next two years, layoffs of 215 people this September, service cuts and possible park fees that Latvala has supported. Latvala, though, said it's "right sizing" government.

"My opponent raised taxes the last two years she was in office. We have not done that and we have taken a pledge not to do that," Latvala said.

Billiris voted for budgets that included millage rate increases in 2008 and 2009, though she opposed a steeper increase last year. The countywide rate remained the same.

They are running against Carl Folkman, who has pledged to oppose any fee or tax increase, in the Aug. 24 primary. The forum didn't include debate.

"Right now, we need accountability. We need to know where the money is going before the government can say, we need more money," said Folkman, who didn't directly engage either opponent.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 3:41pm]


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