Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New street light fee could be levied in Safety Harbor next year

SAFETY HARBOR — Late into Monday night's City Commission meeting, Mayor Andy Steingold revived talk of a new street light fee that some fear will be a regressive tax.

"You either do it now or forever hold your peace," he said, worrying that state regulations will make it more difficult for municipalities to impose special fees in the future.

The move was a turnaround from a July budget workshop. Then, city commissioners had discarded the fee proposal, which would charge $4.50 monthly to homeowners who live along lighted public streets.

On Monday night, most city commissioners seemed reluctant to support the street light fee. But they agreed to revisit the discussion at another workshop, likely to be scheduled for next week.

"We still need to talk about it," City Commissioner Nina Bandoni said. "It's obvious."

City commissioners are trying to find ways to make up a projected shortfall in the street light fund next year. Safety Harbor needs to cover annual street light operating expenses of about $275,000. The possible fee could generate $288,000 for the fund, so the city would not need to pay for street lights through its general fund. That would relieve some of the toll on reserve funds.

The city is looking at having to pull up to $775,000 from reserves to balance the 2012-2013 budget. However, commissioners are considering options to lower that figure.

In July, only Vice Mayor Joe Ayoub wanted the street light fee. The City Commission decided to move forward with property tax rate increase in lieu of implementing the fee.

But at the end of Monday's meeting, it appeared not enough commissioners want that hiked millage rate of 3.8845. Because it's so much higher than this year's rate of 3.3808, the proposed rate would require four votes to pass.

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property value. The owner of a home valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would have paid $338.08 under this year's rate and would pay $388.45 under the proposed 2013 rate.

On the other side, only Ayoub and Steingold favored the street light fee, which would need three votes to pass.

"We might be at a stalemate," Ayoub said.

Commissioner Nancy Besore likened the street light fee to St. Petersburg's controversial proposed fire fee. Seen as a regressive tax, some argue flat fees — unlike property taxes — would disproportionately charge lower-income property owners.

"Any change in my position would require a strenuous argument," Besore said.

Both she and Steingold were concerned about burdening homeowners with too many additional costs next year, between the possible new street light fee, possible higher millage rate and proposed increased stormwater rate.

Commissioners need to decide whether to implement the fee and where to set the millage rate before public hearings in September.

In other business at Monday's meeting:

• No residents spoke at the first public hearing for a proposed stormwater utility rate of $7.25 monthly for most homes, an increase over this year's $5 rate. City commissioners voted 4-1 to approve it, with Steingold against it. He later said he would rather see a smaller rate increase. The matter goes to a second public hearing Sept. 4.

• City commissioners postponed a discussion on repairing Bishop Creek. They are waiting for the city attorney to provide an opinion memo on the city's legal obligations and for the city staff to put together a stormwater policy. That's expected to be ready at the next meeting.

• City commissioners declined to pursue an ordinance to allow golf carts on certain city streets. An informal online survey showed 67 percent of respondents liked the idea, but commissioners voiced several safety concerns. Ayoub, Steingold and Commissioner Cliff Merz didn't want to consider it.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or To write a letter to the editor, go to

New street light fee could be levied in Safety Harbor next year 08/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.