Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater proposed budget includes higher property tax millage rate

CLEARWATER — After hearing from the public, the City Council is tentatively planning to raise Clearwater's property tax rates. However, council members say it's not a tax increase because most property owners will pay lower taxes since property values have dropped so dramatically.

In other developments, the North Greenwood Library is still slated to be closed, even though a dozen people spoke at City Hall on Thursday night asking the council to spare it. Also, council members are considering suing Pinellas County because the county will no longer fund a second rescue unit at the Countryside Fire Station.

All in all, city leaders are making some unpleasant and unpopular choices to balance Clearwater's budget in harsh economic times.

After much discussion Thursday night, council members went with City Manager Bill Horne's recommendation and set a tentative tax rate of 5.15 mills for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. They won't vote on a final tax rate until they hear more from the public between now and September.

"This is just the beginning of this trip that we're going to take between now and Sept. 17," said Mayor Frank Hibbard, who has argued against a tax rate increase. "This is just a starting point. We will make changes, I am certain, between now and then."

Horne's proposed budget eliminates 86 city jobs, freezes wages and closes the North Greenwood Library, the Morningside Recreation Center and the Harborview Center.

The tentative tax rate of 5.15 mills is 9 percent higher than the city's current rate of 4.72 mills. But it's 7 percent lower than the "rollback rate" of 5.55 mills, which is the tax rate that Clearwater would need to raise the same amount of revenue as the current year.

Because Clearwater's property values have fallen 13 percent in a year, the city will get less revenue even with a higher tax rate.

Council member John Doran noted that Clearwater collected $43 million in property taxes this year. Next year it would collect $41 million under the new millage rate.

"Forty-three is more than 41 any way you do the math," Doran said. "I don't understand how having less tax revenue is a tax increase. It might be a millage increase, but it's not a tax increase."

The council asked budget director Tina Wilson what the new tax rate would mean for most homeowners.

The owner of a homesteaded property with a taxable value of $200,000 would pay $87 more a year, Wilson said. The owner of a nonhomesteaded property of the same value would pay an average of $46 less. About two-thirds of Clearwater properties are non-homesteaded.

At Thursday night's meeting, two people showed up to ask council members to lower taxes. A dozen others asked them to keep the North Greenwood Library open and to raise the tax rate a bit if necessary.

"Now more than ever, we need libraries," said former Mayor Rita Garvey.

Leaders of Clearwater's police and firefighters unions also asked them not to slash taxes.

As for the North Greenwood Library, Horne plans to close it and move part of its collection and its computers across the street to the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex. Keeping it open would cost $120,000, and the council would have to cut that money somewhere else in the budget.

Council members also responded to criticism that Clearwater has too many employees with too-generous benefits.

Council members George Cretekos noted that 10 years ago, the city had 1,150 employees and a 5.5 millage rate, and now it will have 1,084 employees and a 5.15 millage rate. To keep the tax rate the same as it was this year, the city would have to cut another $3 million in spending, he said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

If you go

Public meeting

What: The Clearwater City Council wants more input on the city budget. The public can come and comment.

When: 6 p.m. July 30

Where: City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

Also: Public hearings on the budget will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 and Sept. 17.

Clearwater proposed budget includes higher property tax millage rate 07/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 17, 2009 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Britain lowers terror threat level to 'severe' as more arrested

    World

    MANCHESTER, England — Britain reduced its terrorism threat level a notch, from "critical" to "severe," as authorities said major progress has been made in unravelling the plot behind the Manchester bombing. More arrests are expected.

    An army bomb disposal team works with members of the police in the Moss Side area of Manchester, England, on Saturday. British police say they are evacuating residents around a house being searched in connection with the Manchester concert bombing. Police are searching a number of properties and have 11 suspects in custody in connection with Monday's explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, which killed more than 20 people and injured dozens. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)
  2. Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen dies

    Blogs

    Sergio Bendixen, the first Hispanic to run a U.S. presidential campaign who later pioneered public-opinion polling among Latinos and other immigrant populations, died late Friday in Miami. He was 68.

    Sergio Bendixen.
  3. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  4. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Romano: When a life is more valuable than an arrest

    Public Safety

    Before examining the details, let's propose a question:

    This is a handout request to accompany school portraits of Joey Boylan, who died of a drug overdose and who is being written about in John Romano's column for Sunday. We'd like to run a mug of Joey with the column. Any of the first three attached pictures would be fine to use. We don't need them all. Just pick your favorite portrait and put that in the system. Thanks.