Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas commissioners pass budget with tax increase

Pinellas County commissioners approved the 2013-14 budget Tuesday night, agreeing to increase tax rates in a year when property values are expected to go up. Here are some of the decisions they made:

Tax rates are going up: For the second time in two years, the commission raised the general fund tax rate, which is paid by property owners countywide. Effective Oct. 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, the tax rate will increase by about 5 percent. That is expected to generate $14 million.

For an average homeowner whose property is valued at $100,000 with exemptions included, it will mean paying an additional $26.50 next year.

Water and sewer rates are also scheduled to increase. The typical water and sewer customer will pay an extra dollar a month for water and another $2.01 a month for sewer.

These rate increases come at the same time that property values are expected to increase by roughly 3 percent. Though buffered by the Save Our Homes law, which caps how much some property owners' taxes can increase from year to year, many Pinellas County residents will see a larger tax bill.

County employees are getting raises: After going at least five years without granting a pay increase, the commission has signed off on a 2.8 percent raise this year. Giving employees a raise was one of the central arguments made by County Administrator Bob LaSala for raising the general fund tax rate.

Without it, he told the board, Pinellas could fall in competitiveness to other municipalities that offer higher pay. The county has already struggled to keep employees with IT skills.

Offering his employees an even better deal, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has built 4 percent raises into his budget for next year, which is wrapped into the overall budget that commissioners approved on Tuesday. He is also adding 57 positions to his agency next year. Almost all of them are being paid for through contracts for managing law enforcement for St. Pete Beach and for taking over misdemeanor probation from the Salvation Army.

In unincorporated areas: Residents of unincorporated areas of the county will, for the first time, be required to pay a stormwater fee next year.

Fifteen cities in Pinellas already charge residents a stormwater fee. For unincorporated residents, it will be based on how much of their property is considered nonpermeable, such as homes and driveways. Ninety-percent of residents will pay either $70 a year or $116, depending on whether officials categorize their homes as small or medium.

Commissioners also voted to raise the tax that unincorporated residents pay to support the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, a partial result of the commission's decision to allow East Lake residents to fund their library directly instead of paying into the countywide pool.

Spending is up, slightly: The budget for 2013-14 comes to $1.76 billion, a 2 percent increase over last year. Some of that is due to employee raises, but some comes from a law passed by state legislators last spring that forced counties to pay more into Florida's pension fund. That added about $5 million to the county's pension obligations.

Though county officials expect this year's tax increase will cover any deficit in 2015, they are less sure about 2016 and beyond. More tax increases may be coming, as officials expect a $25 million imbalance by 2023.

Miscellaneous: Each year, commissioners approve items tacked onto the budget. This time, the board agreed to fast-track an affordable housing program it was going to delay until 2017, moving up the $5 million it plans to spend on land acquisition to 2013-14.

Other projects include $3 million for replacing radio towers, $9 million for relocating the sheriff and police communication system to a storm proof building, and $1.6 million for an electronic poll book system for the supervisor of elections.

Comments
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: 5 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: 5 hours ago
‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

TAMPA — Nick Genovese was anxious.The 21-year-old from Land O’Lakes had come to Thunder Alley outside Amalie Arena hoping to see the Tampa Bay Lightning triumph over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference winner-take-all Game...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Woman hit, killed while crossing road in Tampa

TAMPA — A pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing N 40th Street near E Hanlon Street on Wednesday night, according to Tampa police.The crash took place just before 8 p.m. The driver was heading north on 40th Street before strikin...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

TAMPA — Forget Vegas.The Lightning have left the building.No more season. No more watch parties. No more anything.There is no way around it. Jon Cooper's team couldn't finish, not in Game 7 at home, not in the Eastern Conference final...
Updated: 6 hours ago