Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Largo raises taxes with just three residents speaking against the hike

LARGO — The City Commission approved next year's budget and tax rate Thursday night before a crowd of four, not including staff.

In other cities, a 9.7 percent millage rate hike would generate controversy and bring droves of angry citizens to City Hall in protest.

Not in Largo.

Of the four residents who spoke Thursday, three were commission meeting regulars, including Robert Hunsicker, who is running for commission this fall. Hunsicker was one of three to speak against the tax hike, which supports a $138 million budget.

"Our taxes are going up at the same time our public safety is being degraded," said Hunsicker, 69, a semiretired electrical engineer. "Surely, we can do better."

Hunsicker and James Robinson, 35, an employee of Largo Feed & Pet Supply, are running for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Gigi Arntzen.

The lone newcomer speaking Thursday was Mike Reichold, 53, a nurse and former Largo Public Library Advisory Board member. He spoke in favor of the budget.

"Property values have fallen," he said. "I'd like to see maintenance of services."

The budget passed 6-1, with Commissioner Curtis Holmes voting against it, and the tax rate passed 5-2, with Commissioner Michael Smith joining Holmes. Smith objected to cuts to Largo Fire Rescue's budget. Largo Fire dropped one firefighter per shift, with three shifts a day, from Engine 43, which serves western Largo, Belleair Bluffs and Belleair. Going from four firefighters to three on that engine saves $238,800, part of $2.5 million the city cut from this year's budget.

The tentative budget calls for $62 million in general fund spending in fiscal 2013, which starts Oct. 1. Largo's 2013 tax rate will be 4.9999 mills. One mill is equal to $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 after any exemptions, for example, paid Largo about $456 in property taxes under the current 4.5594 millage rate. That same homeowner would pay about $500 under the new tax rate if the property value stayed the same.

The tax hike will raise about $1 million more next year, which staff hopes will prevent more cuts in the 2014 budget. Largo has experienced six straight years of declining revenues, forcing management to cut more than 90 full-time positions, more than 20 this year.

This was a busy week for commissioners, who also met Tuesday night. During that meeting, they heard an impassioned plea from Nancy Perry, the manager of Paradise Island mobile home park, for Largo to reimburse the park for the $15,000 it spent to repair a corroded manhole. Perry says the park will need to spend another $15,000 to $20,000 to fix another manhole and blames the city's sewer system.

City Manager Mac Craig told commissioners the city would work out an agreement with Perry, but declined to commit to paying the full tab for both manholes.

"It doesn't take $15,000 to re-build a manhole," Craig said. "We're going to meet with her, and we'll come up with something."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Forecasters: Increased likelihood for tropical system to form in gulf, soak Tampa Bay

Forecasters: Increased likelihood for tropical system to form in gulf, soak Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — The National Hurricane Center now says an area of low pressure in the Carribean is likely to develop into the first tropical system of the 2018 hurricane season, with Tampa Bay possibly in its path. Wednesday night, the weathe...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Lightning’s season is over; latest on Bayshore street racing death; soggy Memorial Day could curtail concerts; Hooper pays tribute to Lee Roy Selmon’s

The Daystarter: Lightning’s season is over; latest on Bayshore street racing death; soggy Memorial Day could curtail concerts; Hooper pays tribute to Lee Roy Selmon’s

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• The rain is back, and it won’t let up through the Memorial Day weekend. Blame Invest 90L, the low-pressure system brewing in the Caribbean Sea. The National Hurricane Center predicted...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Graham Rahal: Indy 500 could be one of the ‘trickiest races’ in years

Graham Rahal: Indy 500 could be one of the ‘trickiest races’ in years

ST. PETERSBURG — The increased competition in the IndyCar Series was on display during qualifying for Sunday's Indianapolis 500.Two fan favorites (Pippa Mann and 2013 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner James Hinchcliffe) couldn't crack th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Updated: 7 hours ago
What’s bringing that new $50 million boutique hotel to Ybor City? It’s not just the local history

What’s bringing that new $50 million boutique hotel to Ybor City? It’s not just the local history

TAMPA — The historic charm of Ybor City is only part of the reason developers will break ground today on a $50 million boutique hotel on E Seventh Avenue.Two other key factors are Tampa’s larger business climate and the hospitality market in particul...
Published: 05/24/18
Joe Henderson: With chaos the norm on Interstate 4, back roads are looking more inviting

Joe Henderson: With chaos the norm on Interstate 4, back roads are looking more inviting

In the past couple of months, I have had to travel about 25 miles from the bucolic burg of Brandon to Lakeland several times.I take Interstate 4 because it is the most direct route.I may have to rethink that strategy, though, especially with Memorial...
Published: 05/24/18
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — The two cars raced each other along Bayshore Boulevard just before noon, witnesses told police. One was a black 2018 Mustang. The other a gold Nissan. They sped side-by-side, trading the lead, police said, despite the traffic and pedest...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg-based contract electronics company Jabil announced Wednesday it has expanded in Israel by opening an Optics Technology Innovation Center.The 6,560-square-foot complex is in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. "Our Optics Innovation Cen...
Updated: 1 hour ago