Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

Rising property values help most beach cities maintain tax rates

Although 11 of Pinellas County's 12 beach communities are set to reduce or leave unchanged their property tax rate, property owners in those cities and towns will actually be paying nearly $350,000 more in taxes next year.

The reason is a jump in property values, the first time that has happened since the economy and the housing market tanked in 2007.

If the proposed tax rates are approved after public hearings this month, this windfall means that in many towns employees are getting long-delayed raises, new staffers are being hired and capital projects are being pulled off the shelves.

Madeira Beach, which is keeping its property tax rate unchanged, is making the biggest infrastructure investment as it moves ahead with plans to build a City Hall, fire station, recreation complex and docks for nonresidents at an estimated cost of $11 million.

In sharp contrast, Treasure Island is raising its tax rate to generate $417,800 more to pay for maintenance of the Treasure Island Causeway bridges and for maintenance of other infrastructure.

St. Pete Beach is one of two communities to lower its tax rate, giving its property owners a $764,226 reduction on their property tax bills.

The 13 percent drop in St. Pete Beach was made possible by reduced law enforcement costs after the city closed its police department.

Here is a breakdown for each community's proposed rates and budget highlights.

GULFPORT

Proposed rate: $4.04 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $23,000 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The proposed $17.74 million budget includes hiring new employees for the first time in four years, a 2 percent pay hike for nonunion employees, and projects including extending the Pinellas Trail, landscaping and art upgrades to Clymer Park, $465,000 in sewer repairs and $888,000 in marina improvements.

SOUTH PASADENA

Proposed rate: $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $27,000 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The city's proposed $8.3 million budget includes a 2 percent salary increase for staff employees and a 3 percent raise for department directors. Firefighter salaries are still in negotiations. Projects planned include $1 million to repave all of Pasadena Island's streets, $475,000 to refurbish a fire truck, and $175,000 to study expanding the city's fire station.

ST. PETE BEACH

Proposed rate: $2.86 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, down from the current $3.28.

Budget highlights: The city's proposed $25.5 million budget includes a 2.5 percent pay hike for most employees. However, sewer and reclaimed water fees for residents and businesses are scheduled to jump, (4 percent and 8 percent, respectively). Capital projects include $1.18 million to improve the city-owned portion of Blind Pass Road, $1.15 million to rehabilitate a sewer lift station, $445,000 for community center debt service, $350,000 for engineering to reconstruct Pass-a-Grille Way, $243,000 for landscaping the approach to the new Pinellas Bayway, and $225,000 to replace ball park lighting at Egan Park. The city is doubling its contribution to the capital improvement fund to $1.8 million.

TREASURE ISLAND

Proposed rate: $3.34 per $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value, a 7.1 percent increase over the current rate of $3.14.

Budget highlights: The city's proposed $17.6 million budget includes an average 3 percent cost of living increase for employees. Capital projects include repair of the two causeway bridges, replacement of the Isle of Capri and Isle of Palms bridges, renovations to the community center, beach pavilion and bell tower, street repaving, resurfacing tennis courts and dune walkover repairs.

MADEIRA BEACH

Proposed rate: $1.79 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $63,700 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The proposed $5.56 million budget includes up to 3.5 percent raises for employees, and nearly $12 million for a variety of capital projects ranging from a new city hall and fire station to building visitor docks at the city marina. The city has reserves to offset some of that spending. In addition, nonresident parking fees will jump from the current $1 to $1.50 an hour. The city is also considering doubling stormwater fees from $5 to $10 a month.

REDINGTON BEACH

Proposed rate: $1.94 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $28,595 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The $1.38 million budget includes some salary increases for employees, slightly higher spending for law enforcement as well as increased spending for a causeway light, swim buoys and park decorations and signs.

NORTH REDINGTON BEACH

Proposed rate: $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $16,500 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The town's $1.556 million proposed budget includes pay hikes of up to 5 percent for employees. The town is not planning any major infrastructure project this year.

REDINGTON SHORES

Proposed rate: $2 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $46,000 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: $3.398 million budget includes a 1 percent cost of living increase and up to a 3 percent merit increase for employees. The town will be spending more for police and fire protection, as well as for health insurance. No major capital projects are planned.

INDIAN SHORES

Proposed rate: $1.87 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $47,781 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: Proposed $1.169 million budget includes a 3 percent cost of living increase and up to a 3 percent merit raise for employees, the first such raises for regular employees in five years. Residential garbage fees will increase 2 percent in 2014 and again in 2015. Overall personnel spending was cut by shifting to outside consultants for building inspections, as well as the use of temporary employees in the Public Services Department.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH

Proposed rate: $2 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged for the past six years, but raising $75,000 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The city's $6.9 million budget has a $177,000 revenue shortfall that will be covered by the city's $1.8 million reserve fund. Spending includes a 2 percent cost of living salary increase for all employees. Projects planned include $400,000 for redesign and reconstruction of the Gulf Boulevard/Walsingham Road intersection, $62,000 for traffic signal replacement, $60,000 for a new pickup and $40,000 for renovations to city hall and the library.

BELLEAIR BEACH

Proposed rate: $2.04 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, unchanged, resulting in $22,202 in increased revenue.

Budget highlights: The city's $2.639 million budget includes a 3 percent merit pay hike for all full- and part-time employees. Capital spending includes $32,000 for resurfacing 20th and 21st Streets, $60,000 in bridge repairs, $33,000 for stormwater system upgrades, and $70,000 for a stormwater master plan and Belle Isle improvements, as well as additional street sweeping, tree trimming and mangrove trimming, new park lighting, bicycle racks and buoy and seawall replacements.

BELLEAIR SHORE

Proposed rate: $0.62 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value, reduced from the current $0.66, with no change in revenue.

Budget highlights: The propose budget is virtually unchanged with the exception of slightly higher costs for law enforcement, which is contracted out to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

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