The tax rate will remain flat and government will be smaller under a proposed 2009 Pinellas County budget.
In response to property value declines and state-mandated curbs on the ability of local government to collect revenue, the planned general fund budget for next year is $685-million, an 8.4 percent reduction from this year.
The county's total spending plan, which includes money from the state and federal governments and nonrecurring capital costs, is being clipped by $140-million and will stand at $1.96-billion in 2009.
To make the needed spending reductions, county departments were asked to scale back or eliminate nonmandatory services. One result: 400 of the county's 6,451 positions are being eliminated.
Of those 400, about half are now vacant.
As part of the budget process, departments such as Health and Human Services and Parks and Recreation thought about how they would do business differently. Fewer parks will have resident caretakers next year, and the county will shed a private managed care contract in favor of local health clinics.
Though residents accustomed to a certain service may feel the loss, an effort was made to make the impact on the public minimal, officials said.
"Even with these reductions, we are able to maintain the core functions of government," said Assistant County Administrator Mark Woodard.
With the tax rate remaining the same, an owner paying on a home with a taxable value of $200,000 will owe $1,091 to the county. An additional county levy applied in unincorporated Pinellas is also unchanged. The owner of the same home there would owe $1,509.
Not included in those calculations are other levies residents pay to the School Board and other taxing authorities.
With a $25,000 increase to the homestead exemption this year and a countywide 8.5 percent decline in values, many property owners can expect to see a lower tax bill this year.
One item not in the budget is an allocation for Pinellas Hope, a homeless shelter near 126th Avenue N in unincorporated Pinellas. County Commissioner Ken Welch has urged that money dedicated in the budget for affordable housing be shifted to help keep the shelter open.
There's still time to make such tweaks. Public hearings on the proposed budget are scheduled for Sept. 2 and 16 at the county courthouse in Clearwater. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
Will Van Sant can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4166.