Monday, August 20, 2018
News Roundup

Projected budget shortfall could mean raised taxes, service cuts for Pinellas

Pinellas property owners could be looking at higher taxes or reduced services to offset a projected shortfall in the county's operating budget, according to the latest estimates.

The new predictions indicate the county's general fund will face an estimated $11.9 million shortfall in the 2012-13 fiscal year and a further $10.7 million deficit the next year. The fund — which currently contains about $556 million — is now expected to have a long-term shortage of $22 million to $37 million.

The bad news came at Tuesday's County Commission meeting when County Administrator Bob LaSala walked commissioners through his updated forecasts for 10 funds in the budget.

LaSala said he sees potential shortages in four of those: the general fund, which pays for day-to-day expenses of the county; the transportation fund, which is used to maintain the county's roads and related infrastructure; the emergency management system fund; and the funds that provide fire service for certain parts of the unincorporated area.

The shortfalls are, in part, a result of declining property values that have not rebounded as quickly as LaSala originally predicted. In his last projections, LaSala estimated that property values and the tax revenues from them would dip about 3 percent in the next fiscal year and then, in the 2013-14 fiscal year, would rebound by 4 percent.

But in these newest projections, LaSala said the county is expecting a 4 percent drop in property tax revenue next year and a 2 percent decline the following year.

That's really bad news for the general fund, which gets about two-thirds of its total revenue from property taxes. The remainder is derived from revenue sources such as sales taxes and other fees.

Given that information, LaSala told commissioners at the Tuesday meeting that the current levels of service are not sustainable. The commission, he said, will likely have to increase taxes or cut more services.

Then, on Thursday, LaSala referred to the anticipated fiscal woes while speaking to members of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

The challenge, he said, is to "right-size this ship so it will be sustainable and viable, dependable and predictable (and) to build a dependable, reliable and predictable level of service."

The commission, he said, has already cut spending. That included the elimination of about 1,600 positions with the county government. The property tax has been reduced by about 35 percent and revenues by about 30 percent.

"Those are no small variations in the county budget," LaSala said.

Reach Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Comments
Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS — Three people were killed and two children were seriously injured in a head-on collision that took place Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place about 7 p.m. on County Road 54, west of Chantel Drive.Elv...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Catholics react: ‘Terrible and horrible,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘deep disappointment’

Tampa Bay Catholics react: ‘Terrible and horrible,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘deep disappointment’

ST. PETERSBURG — The fallout from a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing the molestation of more than 1,000 children by at least 300 Roman Catholic priests that was covered up by church officials for decades has reverberated among Tampa Bay paris...
Updated: 2 hours ago
More manatees have died in Florida so far this year than in all of 2017. Blame Red Tide.

More manatees have died in Florida so far this year than in all of 2017. Blame Red Tide.

ST. PETERSBURG — The number of manatee deaths in Florida this year has already exceeded the total for all of 2017. Blame Red Tide, which is suspected of killing more than 100 of them.So far, 554 manatees have died in 2018, with four months left to go...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bulls snubbed in preseason AP poll

Bulls snubbed in preseason AP poll

Less than two weeks before their season opener, the Bulls finally have a gaudy accessory to complement their new Adidas uniforms.The ol' chip on their shoulder pads.USF received no votes in the Associated Press preseason poll released Monday, marking...
Updated: 4 hours ago
After parents object, Pinellas halts active shooter training videos for younger kids

After parents object, Pinellas halts active shooter training videos for younger kids

After a torrent of complaints, the Pinellas County school system is scrapping its plans to show a video to elementary school students in preparation for state-mandated active shooting drills to begin soon.The reaction came from parents after the dist...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Yes, that’s a crocodile on a pool noodle. No, the human didn’t get it back.

Yes, that’s a crocodile on a pool noodle. No, the human didn’t get it back.

A little over a week ago, Key Largo resident Victor Perez was looking out toward the bayside canal behind his house when he spotted an unusual sight."I’m on my balcony," said Perez, "and all of a sudden, I see this noodle and there’s a crocodile hang...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Forceful words are coming from the pope’s pen as well as pulpits around Tampa Bay: The sexual abuse of minors, which proliferated for decades within the Roman Catholic Church, were not merely sins but crimes whose repercussions are still being felt b...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida drivers are still some of the worst in the nation

Florida drivers are still some of the worst in the nation

Florida again is one of the states with the worst drivers in nation, according to a study conducted by SmartAsset.The good news? At least we aren’t in first place anymore.RELATED: Florida is the worst state in the nation in every way, rankings sayFlo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Wells Fargo terminates bank account of pro-medical pot candidate

Wells Fargo terminates bank account of pro-medical pot candidate

TALLAHASSEE —Wells Fargo terminated the official campaign account of a Democratic candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole "Nikki" Fried because of her campaign’s promotion of medical marijuana.Nikki Fried’s campaign received a letter...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Crossing guard admits to accidentally killing gopher tortoise in Dunedin

Crossing guard admits to accidentally killing gopher tortoise in Dunedin

A crossing guard turned himself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, saying he was the person seen on video running over a gopher tortoise at an elementary school on Saturday. Robert Dantschisch, 48, saw surveillance video from the sheriff’s o...
Updated: 6 hours ago