Wednesday, September 26, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas County Commission charts course for next round of Penny for Pinellas sales tax

CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County Commission took the first steps Tuesday toward asking voters to renew the fourth round of a countywide 1 percent sales tax that is expected to generate $2 billion over the next decade.

The effort to renew the Penny for Pinellas 1-cent tax in 2017 began with Tuesday's two-hour workshop, where commissioners discussed revenue projections for the next decade of the tax and agreed to educate voters about its benefits before ballots are cast next November. The tax has raked in billions of dollars for Pinellas projects since 1990. If approved, the next round would run between 2020 and 2030.

The education campaign would center on reminding residents of the importance of the tax by showing how the penny-per-dollar levy has been spent in the cities and unincorporated county areas. Voters approved earlier rounds of the tax in 1989, 1997 and 2007.

"It's really the penny that built a better Pinellas," county Administrator Mark Woodard told commissioners. "Fundamentally, it's about enhancing the quality of life in Pinellas County."

The money has paid for fire stations, equipped first-responders and built roads, bridges, park trails and other infrastructure projects. The mayors, city councils and city managers in 17 municipalities are preparing wish lists for the next round of funding.

Talk of renewing the tax comes as the county grapples with the recent sewage crisis: Local sewer systems released more than 250 million gallons of waste after Hurricane Hermine struck in September, the bulk of it from St. Petersburg.

The city needs millions to fix its overwhelmed system, and other cities can direct the tax revenues to upgrade their sewer systems, as well.

The county has launched a website — pinellascounty.org/penny/ — to highlight the hundreds of projects already paid for with the penny tax.

Officials stressed that a third of the tax is paid for by tourists, not residents.

The $2 billion that the next decade of tax money is projected to bring in would be divided this way: About $225 million would go toward countywide investments like economic development, affordable housing, land assembly and jail and court facilities. The county would get $915 million on top of that, while the cities would split $853 million.

Economic development director Mike Meidel said the county should use part of the $225 million to buy and improve parcels of land to recruit companies. The best locations are near interstates and the airport, he said. The lack of "truly shovel-ready" land, he said, deters companies from bringing jobs to the county.

Commissioners reiterated they don't want to prop up private developers or become land barons. "It has to be all about jobs," Commissioner Karen Seel said.

In January, county leaders will begin meetings with municipal officials from across Pinellas. The deadline to establish spending priorities is April. County leaders hope to finish the ballot language by August.

Bill Horne and Matt Spoor, city managers of Clearwater and Safety Harbor, respectively, told the board the sales tax has helped stave off increased millage rates and kept projects and services afloat during the Great Recession.

"Penny for Pinellas has been a good-news story for the city of Clearwater," Horne said. "I cant think of anything as beneficial."

Said Spoor: "I cant imagine what Pinellas County would look like without Penny for Pinellas."

Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.

Comments

Todd Maxwell forced out as St. Petersburg volleyball coach

Todd Maxwell has been replaced as head volleyball coach at St. Petersburg just three days after the Green Devils got their first loss of the season. Maxwell, who was in his third year as head coach, will remain at the school as a social studies teach...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Big gains for Largo’s dynamic duo of Keon Gulley, Khaishef Edwards

Big gains for Largo’s dynamic duo of Keon Gulley, Khaishef Edwards

LARGO — Pass by pass, yard by yard, touchdown by touchdown, Largo High School's Keon Gulley and Khaishef Edwards have ascended together, forming arguably the area's best combination of passer and pass catcher.Gulley's arm, Edwards' hands. Gulle...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Pasco deputies: Holiday woman hits husband with vacuum cleaner part during early-morning cleaning binge

Pasco deputies: Holiday woman hits husband with vacuum cleaner part during early-morning cleaning binge

Pasco County deputies say a Holiday woman went too far in pursuit of a well-kept home early Tuesday morning.Holly Jane Akers, 31, of 3159 Jackson Drive, was arrested shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday and charged with one count of felony battery on a perso...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Tampa Bay Whole Foods can now deliver through Amazon Prime Now

Tampa Bay Whole Foods can now deliver through Amazon Prime Now

Tampa Bay Whole Foods Market shoppers can finally get organic goodies delivered to their homes in a few hoursas members of Amazon Prime. Amazon announced today that Whole Foods has added Tampa, nine other metro areas and parts of Seattle and New Yor...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Clearwater cops suspended for unauthorized car chase

Clearwater cops suspended for unauthorized car chase

CLEARWATER — Police Chief Dan Slaughter suspended two officers and a detective after an internal investigation found an unauthorized car chase led to a crash that hurt an officer and two civilians.Det. Frederick Lise, who led the pursuit after...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Rays’ Jake Faria might have saved his own life with this catch

Rays’ Jake Faria might have saved his own life with this catch

The sight of 6-foot-7, 282-pound Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in the batter's box is scary enough for any major-league pitcher.Imagine seeing a line drive off his bat headed straight for your head.That's the position Rays starter Jake Faria found hims...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Port Richey council wants to make it easier to fire a city manager

Port Richey council wants to make it easier to fire a city manager

PORT RICHEY — The Port Richey City Council wants to make it easier to fire its city managers, but will let voters decide whether to give the idea the green light.The council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval for a referendum on the April 9,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Crash ties up northbound traffic on Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Crash ties up northbound traffic on Sunshine Skyway Bridge

A crash Wednesday morning has traffic congested on the northbound Sunshine Skyway Bridge.Traffic cameras around 8 a.m. showed the bridge's left lane blocked just before its main hump, which has increased the drive-time for commuters attempting to cro...
Updated: 2 hours ago
20 people busted in Pasco County contracting sting

20 people busted in Pasco County contracting sting

Nearly two dozen people have been arrested in Pasco County for a variety of cases involving contracting without a license and failure to secure worker’s compensation insurance, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Sheriff Chris Nocco will a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Gulf’s John Jessup just runs his worries away

Gulf’s John Jessup just runs his worries away

NEW PORT RICHEY — On the starting line Saturday morning at Starkey Park, Gulf High senior John Jessup said he felt pretty good and optimistic, but then he started running, and well, Jessup said, "I didn't feel so good."Down the soggy trails he ...
Updated: 2 hours ago