Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas rejects some tax hikes, but residents will likely pay more

Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday rejected two proposed tax rate increases, but residents should still expect a larger bill from the county next year.

In his initial budget proposal, County Administrator Bob LaSala suggested three different tax hikes: one to cover budget shortfalls for the next two years, one to pay for rising emergency medical services costs, and one to raise money for a rainy day fund. At their meeting Tuesday, commissioners told LaSala to forget the last two, saying they could not hit taxpayers with that many increases in one year.

"Now is not the right time," said Commissioner Karen Seel, who, along with several other commissioners, said that while it would be a "wise move" for the county to build its reserve fund, they would not support a tax increase to pay for it. To cover the shortfall in the EMS fund, they agreed to dip into reserves.

Though two rate hikes have been taken off the table, if the commission approves LaSala's budget, the average Pinellas County resident should expect to pay roughly $100 more next year in taxes and fees, not including any increase due to rising property values.

The commission is likely to approve a 5 percent tax rate increase to cover a budget shortfall and give county employees a nearly 3 percent raise. For an average homeowner whose property is valued at $100,000 with exemptions included, it would mean paying an additional $26.50 next year.

On top of that, faced with new federal regulations, the board is expected to approve a storm-water fee for unincorporated areas of the county that would take effect next fiscal year. Property owners would be charged based on how much of their land is considered nonpermeable, such as driveways and homes.

The average Pinellas home­owner would be charged $70 a year, according to Eric Naughton, the county's budget director. People with large properties could pay as much as $267 annually.

Water and sewer rates also are scheduled to increase next year. A typical customer's water bill will likely go up $1 a month, and their sewer bill will go up $2 a month.

Hanging over the discussions Tuesday was the likelihood that the commission will ask voters in 2014 for a 1-cent sales tax to pay for mass transit improvements. Agreeing to all of LaSala's proposed tax increases could put that referendum in peril, some commissioners think.

"It's certainly on my mind and I think on everybody else's," Commissioner Susan Latvala said. "That is so key to the future of this county."

Along with giving employees pay raises, LaSala's budget would allow some county departments and the Sheriff's Office to hire more employees. After cutting nearly 1,700 positions in the past few years, the county hopes to add about 50, most of them in the Department of Environment and Infrastructure, which is in charge of complying with the new stormwater regulations. The budget also includes 4 percent raises for sheriff employees.

LaSala also has proposed another $5.5 million in one-time expenses, which would likely come out of reserves, commissioners agreed Tuesday.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas rejects some tax hikes, but residents will likely pay more 07/16/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Letter from 'many' St. Petersburg High faculty, staff to Pinellas School Board pushes for assistant principal to be next principal


    A St. Petersburg High teacher sent a letter on the behalf of "many" school faculty and staff to the Pinellas County School Board and school district superintendent Mike Grego in support of appointing their assistant principal, Darlene Lebo, as principal.

    Darlene Lebo, an assistant principal at St. Petersburg High, is supported by "many" school faculty and staff to be the school's next principal, according to a letter sent to the Pinellas County School Board.
  2. 2017 Florida Theme Park Guide: A look at this summer's top attractions


    Florida's theme parks are getting ready for their busiest season with new rides, shows and perks, and we have rounded up a guide to the best new things to see.

    The newest fireworks presentation at Magic Kingdom uses lasers, lights, projections and pyrotechnics showing characters and scenes from more than 25 Disney films. [Walt Disney World]
  3. Meet 'rave pops,' the EDM-loving, hard-dancing 72-year-old who went viral via the Sunset Music Festival (w/video)

    Music & Concerts

    Alan Grofé is a 72-year-old, semi-retired entrepreneur and former tech executive with frost-white hair, two grown children and five grandchildren.

    Alan Grofe dances at the Electric Daisy Carnival festival in Orlando in 2016. [aLIVE Coverage for Insomniac]
  4. Humana adding 200 telemarketing jobs in Tampa Bay

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Health insurance company Humana Inc. is hiring more than 200 workers in Tampa Bay. The Louisville, Ky.-based company said Wednesday that the new positions will focus on phone sales for Humana's direct marketing services department.

    Humana is adding 200 positions to its Tampa office. Theo Sai, chief medical officer for seniro products at Humana, is pictured in the company's Tampa executive office in 2015. | Rachel Crosby, Times
  5. Congressman wants Trump to pay for Mar-a-Lago travel


    WASHINGTON -- This bill won’t go anywhere, but give Rep. Alcee Hastings creative points with the TRUMPED Act, aka Taxpayers Require Urgent Mandatory Protection from Egregious Debt Act of 2017: