Pinellas Park set to raise property tax rate — but don't call it a tax increase, officials say

PINELLAS PARK — City Council members are poised to raise the property tax rate by 6.3 percent for the coming fiscal year, but they say taxpayers shouldn't get upset because taxes won't go up.

Their reasoning goes this way: Property values overall have dropped in Pinellas Park. The tax rate hike is intended to offset that decrease and get the same amount of money next year that the city got this year from property owners. So many taxpayers won't pay any more even with the higher rate, simply because their property is worth less.

"The increase in the (tax) rate will not represent a tax increase," Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler said Tuesday during a budget workshop.

Dan Katsiyiannis, head of the city's budget department, agreed, saying the hike would bring in the same revenue as the lower rate "without being considered a tax increase."

The proposal, scheduled for a vote in September, would set a property tax rate of about $5.43 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value. The current rate is about $5.11 per thousand dollars. Currently, a homeowner with a house valued at $150,000 and a $50,000 homestead exemption pays about $511 a year in property taxes to Pinellas Park. That same homeowner would pay $543 next year.

That tax money will help fund an operating budget of about $49.6 million for 2011-12, which is about 0.9 percent less than the current operating budget of about $50.1 million.

The bulk of that budget — about 64 percent — goes to salaries and benefits for Pinellas Park's 517 employees.

The Police Department has the largest budget, about $13.4 million to finance 101 sworn officers including police Chief Dorene Thomas, three captains, three lieutenants and 12 sergeants.

The next largest department is fire with a proposed 2011-12 budget of about $10.8 million. About $3 million of that is expected to come from Pinellas County to fund the emergency medical services portion of the department's duties.

The department has one chief, two deputy chiefs, three district chiefs, one EMS chief, one special operations chief, one training chief, 17 lieutenants, two inspectors and 59 firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Pinellas Park set to raise property tax rate — but don't call it a tax increase, officials say 07/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 30, 2011 5:30am]

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