Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

How much does the Penny for Pasco cost you? Here's the math

A family earning Pasco's median household income of a little more than $44,000 has been paying roughly $108 for each of the past eight years toward the Penny for Pasco sales tax.

John Becker heard those figures and said that's a good deal.

"It's worth it," said Becker, a Publix store manager with a daughter in fifth grade and a son who just started at River Ridge High. "That's not even a dollar a day."

The question for voters on Nov. 6: Do you want to keep paying that $108 — or the comparable figure for your income — for another 10 years?

Becker's support makes sense. He is a member of two school advisory committees and knows how the Pasco school district would use its projected $226 million share.

Gary Willner's view might be a little more surprising. The Republican from Trinity vocally opposed the tax when it first passed in 2004, earmarked for road projects, construction and renovation of schools, buying environmental land and public safety equipment, among other things. He thought the breakdown of the proceeds was arbitrary and had a serious concern about the referendum being scheduled for that year's Democratic presidential primary.

Willner has been converted.

He attended a series of meetings to review how the proceeds were used. He still quibbles with the portion earmarked to purchase environmental land. But overall, he said, "There didn't seem to be any waste in there. If it wasn't well spent, I would be opposing it." As he visits Republican club meetings, he doesn't hear much organized opposition.

What about the impact to the average family?

"I haven't met anybody yet who said it kept them from buying anything," said Willner, who purchased a new car this year and wasn't dissuaded by the additional sales tax. "I haven't met anybody who even realized that extra penny was there."

Of course it's impossible to say exactly how much the Penny for Pasco costs each family. Some people are spenders, some are savers. Some frequently eat dinner at restaurants (taxable) while some only shop at the grocery store (mostly nontaxable). Some bought a big-ticket item like a fridge this year, boosting their sales tax bill.

But Frank Williams, an economist with the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, has a "crude estimate" of Floridians' effective tax rate. Take your household income and multiply it by 1.46 percent. That's how much you pay in a year under the state's 6 percent sales tax. To see how much the Penny costs, divide that figure by six.

There are caveats, of course. Williams said the rate tends to be lower for seniors, who spend more of their income on nontaxable medicine or health care services. The rate is higher for families with kids, who spend more on things like school supplies and clothes. A larger household size leads to a higher rate.

Wealthier people pay a higher overall dollar amount, but tend to pay a lower rate because many can save more of their income. Critics note that sales taxes in general are regressive because poorer families pay a greater share of their earnings.

Accounting for all those variables, Williams said, the actual portion of a household's income going to sales tax can vary anywhere between 1 percent and a little more than 2 percent.

The IRS offers a second opinion in the form of a handy online sales tax calculator for those who itemize their deductions. The calculator is a little less precise because it computes a figure based on an income range. Williams said it's "probably a little conservative." After all, the calculator is used to compute a deduction that reduces your federal tax bill.

Still, it gives a good ballpark sense of your sales tax levy. Under the IRS calculator, a family of four earning between $40,000 and $50,000 can deduct $114 based on their estimated Penny taxes.

Regardless of the actual figure, the levy won't increase or decrease unless people change their spending patterns. The ballot amendment would extend the tax at the same rate through 2024.

"I can tell you that there will not be any change in the impact on any family compared to the last eight years," said Hutch Brock, co-chairman of a citizens committee supporting the renewal. "This is just continuing something that's already in place."

Brock called the Penny a fair tax because it is spreads the burden beyond just property owners. The pro-Penny campaign argues that at least 25 percent of the estimated $502 million in proceeds will be collected from tourists, snowbirds and renters.

County officials call that a "fair and conservative estimate" based on several statistics. The state's tourism agency estimates 23 percent of Florida's sales tax revenue is tied to tourism, and Pasco gets some slice of that. Also, 36 percent of the county's residential properties do not have a homestead exemption, indicating they are rented or owned by seasonal residents. Plus, there are shopping draws such as the Shops at Wiregrass that attract out-of-county spending.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Voters first approved the Penny for Pasco sales tax in 2004, and it is slated to expire after 10 years unless voters decide Nov. 6 to extend it. The renewal would begin in January 2015 and would generate an estimated $502 million over a decade. The Pasco School District and the county would each get 45 percent, and the remaining 10 percent would be divided among Pasco's six cities.

The Pasco Times calculated how much the tax costs families with different household incomes. The figures are rounded. Here's how we did the math:

1. Take your annual income and multiply it by 1.46 percent, or 0.0146. That's a rough estimate of the effective tax rate provided by Frank Williams, an economist with the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. (It's just an estimate. Seniors likely pay a lower rate. Families with children tend to pay a higher rate.) That shows how much you pay each year under the state's 6 percent sales tax.

2. Divide that figure by 6. That shows how much went to the Penny for Pasco sales tax.

The IRS also provides an online sales tax calculator: apps.irs.gov/app/stdc. It asks your income range, household size, Zip code and whether you made any big-ticket purchases such as a car or large appliance.

The following scenarios show what a family of four with various household incomes might pay each year in Penny for Pasco sales tax.

Scenario 1

Household income: $35,000

Williams estimate: $85

IRS estimate: $100

Scenario 2

Household income: $44,228 (Pasco's median income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau)

Williams estimate: $108

IRS estimate: $114

Scenario 3

Household income: $55,000

Williams estimate: $134

IRS estimate: $127

• Scenario 4

Household income: $65,000

Williams estimate: $158

IRS estimate: $139

Comments
Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

The announcement was rolled out to the world as a pledge. A promise.In March 2016 SeaWorld declared it would end killer whale breeding, making the orcas in its care in the United States and abroad its last generation to live in captivity.Later that y...
Updated: 8 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Did President Trump break a promise to Florida’s Haitian population?

PolitiFact Florida: Did President Trump break a promise to Florida’s Haitian population?

With Election Day 2016 approaching, then-candidate Donald Trump traveled to Miami to earn the support of a group of Haitian-Americans."Whether you vote for me or you don’t vote for me, I really want to be your greatest champion, and I will be your ch...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough County School District needs meaningful action, not platitudes

When it comes to the Hillsborough County School District, the more I see, the less I know.Every week, the notion the district can successfully navigate its budget crisis and all the ancillary problems sprouting from it takes a hit. The dispute betwee...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Atlanta airport power outage cancels 1,000 flights; more Delta cancellations Monday

Atlanta airport power outage cancels 1,000 flights; more Delta cancellations Monday

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill Sunday, grounding more than 1,000 flights in Atlanta just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush. Authorities announced that electricity would be restored...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Woman shot and killed in apparent drive-by shooting in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A woman was shot to death Sunday night in an apparent drive-by shooting, according to Clearwater police.Authorities said they received an initial call at 8:19 p.m. originating from 800 Belleair Road. The shooting is believed to have occu...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts Rolling a fat one — 100 feet longMarijuana aficionados have rolled a 100-foot-long joint. The effort was led by Boston-based cannabis club and advocacy group Beantown Greentown during an exhibition of pro-marijuana vendors and supporter...
Updated: 9 hours ago