Other Pinellas guy supporting higher tax rate: Sheriff Coats
CLEARWATER -- Outside of Commissioner Ken Welch, the most disappointed politician over the County Commission's handling of Welch's proposed tax rate increase could be Sheriff Jim Coats.
Coats said he was willing to publicly campaign for the higher rate, which Welch argued could stave off cuts for 2010 and, important to Coats, cuts due to shortfalls in 2011. But the rest of the commission declined to take a vote on it with the proposed 2010 budget balanced.
According to budget projections by county staff, the county will face a $10.2 million deficit for 2011, and Coats has already been targeted to cut spending to cover the shortfall. A reserve fund to keep the next budget stable ended up at less than half the $15 million that County Administrator Bob LaSala sought. The county officials blame Coats and some other elected officials for not cutting deeper, producing the shortfall.
"Which is totally wrong," said Coats' chief deputy, Robert Gualtieri, whose calculations say the deficit is actually $2.5 million and not the sheriff's duty to make up.
"For some reason, the commission doesn't want to publicly vet that," said Coats. "We'll have to wait and see" whether the commission's denial of higher tax rate will be good for Pinellas.
But maybe there's another reason for that shortfall, though Welch said county staffers have spent hours poring over numbers.
"I think that whatever this $10.2 million deficit is, it’s probably one of those accounting things. It can probably get explained away, since we have a balanced budget," Commission Chairman Calvin Harris said.
David DeCamp, Times staff writer