With a year to go before voters are asked to approve a higher sales tax to pay for increased public transit, Pinellas County's transportation agency has no plans to raise its portion of the property tax next year.
But with property values slightly on the rise and ridership increasing, the agency is expecting to have $2.7 million more to spend in 2014, a nearly 5 percent increase over the current fiscal year.
Some of that is going to its employees who, if the budget is approved, would get a 1 percent raise and could become eligible for a performance bonus program. But much of it has been set aside to buy new buses to replace the agency's aging fleet and cover the cost of other capital improvements.
PSTA's plans for 2014 include increased service on its Jolley Trolley routes, which shuttle tourists to and along the county's beaches, and are among its most profitable routes. Its budget plans for more holiday service on the coastal route, which takes visitors to Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. If service is expanded, it would also operate on non-weekend holidays. The agency is also planning to start a trolley route in Safety Harbor that, funding allowing, would begin in early February.
With slightly higher revenue coming into the agency, officials also are planning to restore some of the cuts they made several years ago when property values tanked. That could include extending operating hours by a half an hour on major routes.