Saturday, November 18, 2017
News Roundup

Largo city manager proposes 5 percent yearly property tax hike

RECOMMENDED READING


LARGO — The city manager is proposing that Largo raise property tax rates by 5 percent — not only this year, but 5 percent every year until the city government reaches certain benchmarks.

"There is strong support for smaller and leaner government, but there is opposition to the elimination or reduction of specific services," City Manager Mac Craig wrote in a 406-page budget document posted on the city's website.

"To address this challenge, city administration is proposing a long-term strategy within the general fund to provide for a consistent and incremental 5 percent property tax revenue increase each year until certain milestones are met."

Those benchmarks would include rebuilding the city's reserves and adding more police officers and firefighters. Even with a 5 percent tax hike, officials say the city couldn't afford to do all of that next year.

Beginning next week, Largo's elected officials will discuss next year's tax rate at a series of meetings and public hearings that will continue through the summer. No matter what city staffers ask for, Mayor Pat Gerard said, the City Commission wouldn't be able to commit to a particular tax rate beyond next year.

"The budget is kind of a negotiation process between the staff and the commission," Gerard said of the city staff's proposal for continuing tax increases. "That's what they'd like us to do, and that's all well and good. But we're the ones that would have to do it and take the heat for it."

The city manager's $130 million budget proposal calls for a 5 percent increase in the property tax rate, to 5.22 mills. One mill is equal to $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property.

For example, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 after exemptions paid Largo $499 in property taxes under the current millage rate of 4.99. That same homeowner would pay $522 under the proposed tax rate for 2014.

Last year, Largo raised its property tax rate by 9.7 percent to bring an extra $1 million into city coffers and stave off deep budget cuts.

Largo has gone through seven straight years of declining revenues, forcing management to pare $16 million from general fund spending since 2008 and trim more than 97 jobs.

"It was hoped that in 2013 the city would begin to see revenues growing," Craig said. "However, several revenue streams have either declined or remained flat, while the cost of doing business continues to rise."

Craig is suggesting that Largo's property tax rate increase by 5 percent each year until the city can do two things:

• Hire more police officers, firefighters and IT professionals.

• Rebuild the city's fund balance, which is money carried over in case of an emergency. Often called a "rainy day fund," it's at its lowest point in years. The balance has dropped from nearly 20 percent of the general fund budget a few years ago to 8 percent this year. Craig recommends bringing it back to at least 10 percent and eventually to 15 percent.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.

Comments

Possible wrong-way crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday

TAMPA — A multi-vehicle crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday may have been caused by a driver traveling in the wrong direction, Tampa police said.The crash occurred in the eastbound lanes closer to the Tampa side of the causeway, near ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Region football: Clearwater Central Catholic 37, Calvary Christian 10

CLEARWATER — The ice bath ensued for Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey after the Marauders’ 37-10 victory over Calvary Christian in Friday’s Class 3A region final. The win placed the Marauders (11-0) in their fifth state tournament since...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

Region football: Plant 22, Viera 18

MELBOURNE — With 1 yard separating Plant from an incredible come-from-behind victory, or a devastating defeat, it all came down to a matter of trust.And for Panthers coach Robert Weiner, there was no one he would put more faith in to get that 1 yard ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

Region football: Armwood 22, Hillsborough 0

SEFFNER — Hillsborough conquered one nemesis with last week’s win over Class 6A defending state finalist Lake Gibson, the team that knocked the Terriers out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago.But there was an even bigger stumbling block to...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Region football: Ocala Vanguard 35, Mitchell 31

NEW PORT RICHEY — The start wasn’t quite befitting of a playoff game between undefeated teams, but the end of Friday’s war between Ocala Vanguard and Mitchell certainly was.Like last year’s Class 6A regional semifinal, the Mustangs held a three-point...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

Region football: Green Cove Springs Clay 52, Zephyrhills 49

ZEPHYRHILLS — For Zephyrhills, Friday night’s Class 5A region semifinal against Green Cove Springs Clay was doomed by 12 bad minutes. The Bulldogs led by four points at halftime but allowed 28 unanswered points in the third quarter and were not able ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

Region football: Lakewood 20, Jesuit 7

ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood came into Friday’s playoff game knowing its defense had to help control field position against Jesuit. The Spartans (9-1) left Friday’s game with a ticket to Immokalee for a region final — and six Tigers (6-5) turnovers en r...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Region football: Tampa Bay Tech 42, Palmetto 26

TAMPA — Another Friday night, another offensive explosion.Tampa Bay Tech’s offense continued its torrid pace and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. accounted for five total touchdowns as the Titans rolled past Palmetto 42-26 in a Class 7A, Region 3 semifi...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Region football: Cambridge Christian 50, Indian Rocks Christian 14

TAMPA — The Cambridge Christian offense was clicking, and quarterback Jaylin Jackson couldn’t seem to be stopped. Still, as the second quarter clock dwindled, Indian Rocks Christian was hanging around.So with just more than a minute left in the half,...
Updated: 7 hours ago