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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Welch: Property tax increase still an option

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch said cuts to balance next year's county budget may justify a property tax rate increase, though other commissioners have said they're reluctant to do it.

"At this point, we are preparing a proposed budget that does not include a millage increase," chief assistant county administrator Mark Woodard said this afternoon.

But Welch, noting Commissioner Calvin Harris also has maintained that all options are open for discussion, says the depth of reductions could be too much with a $7.8 million gap remaining. A rate increase to generate $10 million or so more might not require more than a majority vote under Florida law, though it likely would spark some public resistance.

"I think I certainly could make the argument to concerned citizens. Do you want to remove the safety net for our hospitals .. do you want to remove the funding for homeless services?" Welch said today.

It may also solve a dispute with Sheriff Jim Coats, who said this week that the county's attempts to close the gap by cutting his department's spending is unjustified. He has offered a 16 percent cut, but does not want to have to cut further.

-- David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:57am]


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