Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County once again eyes a property tax hike

Anticipating that the Florida Legislature is going to require counties to contribute more money into its retirement system, Pinellas County is considering raising the property tax rate for the second year in a row.

Although early forecasts showed Pinellas heading into next year with a budget gap of about $1.4 million, County Administrator Bob LaSala now believes the number will be much greater. At a meeting Thursday, he told commissioners that by the time he presents them with his budget proposal in July, it likely will contain a tax increase of between 4 and 6 percent.

"We have to do one of three things," LaSala told the board. "Increase revenue. Decrease expenses. Or gain more efficiencies and productivity to help close that gap. My hunch is that we're going to do a little bit of all three."

LaSala said the increase is needed to cover the $5 million he expects the Legislature will force the county to pay into the Florida Retirement System. Paying that bill would involve only a minor increase — roughly a tenth of a mill — to the general fund, but that's not all the county needs, LaSala said.

Although county employees and sheriff deputies received a one-time bonus payment last year, it has been five years since their last raise. Worried that Pinellas is losing employees to other counties and slipping in the competition for qualified workers, LaSala said that both he and Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri are planning to boost salaries next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

It's unclear how much employees' pay would go up, but county staffers said they expect overall personnel costs, including raises, to rise by 4 percent next year, adding $12 million to the budget deficit.

LaSala also wants to put $10 million to $15 million into a reserve fund, just as the commission did years ago to cushion the blow of the recession. On Thursday, several commissioners appeared skeptical that the county would be able to sock away money for the future while also improving services that have suffered from budget cuts and layoffs, such as code enforcement.

LaSala's proposed increase would raise the tax rate from $5.01 per $1,000 of taxable value to between $5.21 and $5.31. For example, the owner of a $100,000 homesteaded property would pay $10 to $14 more.

Last year, the commission approved raising the rate by about 5 percent to cover a $11.4 million Medicaid bill handed down by the state Legislature.

Commissioner Ken Welch said a tax increase was "justified."

"I just think there are certain basic levels of service that we shouldn't cut below and I think we're at that point," he said.

In a separate discussion, several commission members said they were reluctant to raise the property tax rate to pay for a projected shortfall in the budget for emergency medical services, saying they could cover the gap by digging into the $22 million EMS reserves.

LaSala suggested increasing the EMS tax from $0.9158 per $1,000 of taxable property value to $1.0128, an increase of about 10.6 percent. The increase would bring in about $5 million.

Anne Lindberg contributed to this report. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas County once again eyes a property tax hike 04/18/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 11:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Andy Serkis' directing debut 'Breathe' is not so inspiring

    Movies

    After such a revolutionary acting career, Andy Serkis should be expected to make an equally inventive directing debut. Breathe is anything but that.

    Clare Foy and Andrew Garfield star in Breathe as Robin and Diana Cavendish, an English polio victim and his devoted wife, who pioneered disability rights and wheelchairs with ventilators. [Imaginarium]
  2. Federal judge blocks Trump's third travel ban

    A federal judge on Tuesday largely blocked the Trump administration from implementing the latest version of the president's controversial travel ban, setting up yet another legal showdown on the extent of the executive branch's powers when it comes to setting immigration policy.

    Protesters waved signs and chanted during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside a federal courthouse in Seattle in May. The third version of Trump's proposal was blocked by a federal judge Tuesday. [AP photo]
  3. The #BrooklynCow delighted Twitter for one glorious afternoon

    Blogs

    In the long tradition of social media delighting in news reports of a non-native animal running loose in an urban setting, Twitter, for a few blissful hours this afternoon, turned its collective …

    A bull was on the loose in Brooklyn for a little while on Tuesday afternoon.
  4. Pinellas, Hillsborough to join forces

    Blogs

    What is this, a crossover episode?

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins did make an appearance at the Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in a first public move to establish an official partnerships between the two districts.

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins (center) and Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego discuss a new partnership between the two districts at a Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in Largo.
  5. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]