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Clearwater considers tax rate hike


Tax rate hike possible

City Manager Bill Horne is proposing to raise the property tax rate for Clearwater residents, a dramatic turnaround from the cuts of the past two years.

The move would mean the city could bring in close to an estimated $440,000 in additional property tax revenues, but it still won't be enough to save a number of city jobs and services.

It also means residents could pay higher property taxes, despite property values dropping countywide this year.

Horne said he's proposing to roll the millage rate forward from its current rate of $4.677 per $1,000 of taxable value to $5.1.

Even with the increase, the city won't collect as much money as it did this year because sales tax and franchise fee revenues are down. In addition, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is expected to raise fees — something city leaders didn't anticipate — for a number of contracts, such as forensics.

"I'll be recommending it because there are some unknowns," Horne said. "We have to pass a millage rate that gives us some room to protect our services."

­—Mike Donila, Times staff writer


Man hit after argument

A Dunedin man was hit and flipped into the air by an SUV after an argument in the parking lot of Tumbleweeds bar, authorities said.

Thomas Paul Stacey Jr., 31, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa after the altercation at 2 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He was in good condition Friday.

The driver of the SUV, Wehner Lawrence Alfons, 47, of Largo was arrested and booked into the county jail on one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of driving with a suspended license.

Deputy Jim Cooper was on patrol early Tuesday when he saw two men arguing in the parking lot at 424 Patricia Ave.

As Cooper drove closer to investigate, he saw one of the men and two passengers climb into a 2002 Suzuki SUV. The vehicle backed up and then drove straight at Stacey, hitting him and causing him to fly up and over the front of the SUV, sheriff's officials said.

—Times staff

Three arrested in raids

John Hornberger, 45, was reading a newspaper at the Hot Spots Cyber Cafe Wednesday afternoon as his girlfriend played a computer game.

Suddenly, he heard a noise. Then police broke through the door with a battering ram.

"You know what I said when that happened?" Hornberger asked. "'Uh oh. This doesn't look good.'"

About 15 Pinellas County deputies in bulletproof vests swarmed in and surrounded about a dozen patrons, Hornberger said. The elderly women in the room looked frightened.

The raid at the strip mall gaming room was one of three in north Pinellas County Wednesday after an eight-month investigation. Narcotics division deputies netted three arrests, more than 100 computers and $14,000 in cash.

Police arrested three men. Each was charged with one felony count of maintaining a gambling establishment and multiple misdemeanor counts of possessing a coin-operated device.

The men are:

• Zbigniew Skwara, 50, of Tarpon Springs, the owner of the Cyber Pal Cafe on U.S. 19 N in Palm Harbor. He faces 21 charges.

•James Michael Hill, 29, of Davenport, regional manager of the Hot Spot Cyber Center on Bayshore Boulevard in Dunedin. He faces 61 charges.

•Steven George Duke, 52, of Largo, manager of Mike's Internet Cafe on Seminole Blvd. in Largo. He faces 56 charges.

—Jackie Alexander, Times staff writer


Crash kills motorcyclist

A Holiday man was killed late Wednesday after his motorcycle collided with a car on U.S. 19, Florida Highway Patrol officials said.

Justin M. Harris, 29, 5545 Riddle Road, was driving north on U.S. 19 around 11:40 p.m. when his motorcycle struck the left side of a two-door Volkswagen that had just turned right onto the highway from County Road 95, troopers said.

Witnesses told investigators Harris was speeding. The impact threw Harris from the motorcycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene by Palm Harbor Fire Rescue personnel.

FHP Lt. Harold Frear said Harris wasn't wearing a helmet. The car's driver, Nada Duheric, 43, was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital. Frear said her injuries were not serious.

Four others in the car were not hurt, according to an FHP news release. No charges have been filed.

—Times staff

Clearwater considers tax rate hike 05/31/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 2, 2008 4:19pm]
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