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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Report: Pinellas has $40 million shortfall looming



Pinellas County can expect a $40 million shortfall for its next budget because the economy has gotten worse than expected, a county budget forecast says.

Property values are expected to decline 12 percent, worse than expected, and scuttle expectations that last year's cuts would stave off grim cuts for the 2010-11 budget. Residential values as of Jan. 1 will be down 8.6 percent, and nonresidential values down 20 percent.

"It's grim," County Commissioner Neil Brickfield said shortly after receiving the 152-page forecast Thursday, echoing recent sentiment out of County Administrator Bob LaSala's office.

The general fund pays for most of the basic services of government, and property taxes make up two-thirds of the fund. The county set aside more than $7 million in a budget stabilization fund. But the forecast notes the county failed to cut as much as targeted last year (after a dispute with Sheriff Jim Coats, who disagreed with how county officials accounted for who would be cut).

The County Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Clearwater to begin debating how to proceed. The forecast notes higher tax rates, higher fees and spending cuts as options to solve the shortfall, and its important to note the forecast could change somewhat by summer, when budget decisions get hammered out.

On a property tax rate increase, however, the forecast includes a nugget on how a rate increase would not be an increase:

"Technically, this would not be defined as a property tax increase under the state definition. The County is currently collecting less than the maximum allowed majority vote property tax revenue."

David DeCamp, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:23pm]


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