Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rebounding housing market could mean budget surplus for Pinellas County

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County officials are starting the budget season with some good news.

Property values in the county, on average, are expected to rise by 5 percent this year — up from an initial 3 percent estimate, according to Property Appraiser Pam Dubov.

The revision means a sunnier forecast for the county's general fund, budget director Bill Berger told commissioners during a budget workshop Thursday.

Berger had predicted a shortfall of $3.9 million for the 2015 fiscal year. The forecast now calls for a surplus of $2.3 million.

It's still early in the budget process, and Berger also cautioned that the county has yet to receive budget requests from its constitutional officers, including Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who wants more money for deputy salaries, new cars and other equipment.

The warning wasn't lost on commissioners who say they will still take a conservative approach as they build a spending plan.

"We're still in recovery mode," Chairwoman Karen Seel said.

Earlier at the same workshop, the board got a dire prediction about how changes to the Medi­caid system could affect the local health department.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County used to be reimbursed based on the actual cost to treat patients, said Dr. Claude Dharamraj, the department's director. But this year, the state is shifting to a managed-care system that requires departments to negotiate reimbursement rates.

That is expected to cut the department's reimbursements by up to $2 million in the next fiscal year, Dharamraj told the board. That equates to about 8,300 client visits.

"I'm going to have some people I'm not going to be able to serve," she said.

She urged the board to move forward with a plan to seek a special federal designation that would allow the county to continue to receive higher reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients, as well as savings for prescription drugs.

Other providers are against that, saying it will put the county in competition for patients. Dharamraj stressed Thursday that there is plenty of unmet need in Pinellas.

That decision is part of a broader discussion the board must have about indigent health care.

Commissioners learned this week that the county is in danger of losing a $5 million federal grant to build a health care clinic in Largo geared toward homeless families. The grant requires the clinic to be completed by April 15 but construction hasn't started, and the projected completion date is now December of next year. The county is asking for an extension.

Another potential obstacle: County officials have yet to negotiate contracts with local partners to provide services, equipment and other resources for the clinic.

The board hopes to work out these issues soon so that commissioners can decide by early June whether to move forward with the clinic.

Tony Marrero can be reached at or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Rebounding housing market could mean budget surplus for Pinellas County 04/24/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 12:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]