Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Six areas of unincorporated Pinellas face tax hike for fire service

Thousands of residents in unincorporated Pinellas will likely see the property tax rate they pay for fire protection jump as much as 57 percent next year.

The increase is caused by escalating costs, reduced tax revenue from lower property values, and other factors.

The news came Tuesday when County Administrator Bob LaSala unveiled his proposed budgets for the 12 "dependent" fire districts. Because the county has no fire department, it contracts with cities and fire departments to provide service to those areas, which have a population of about 157,800, or about 17.2 percent of the county's 916,719 residents.

The tax rates vary from fire district to fire district. Six — Belleair Bluffs, Gandy, High Point, Pinellas Park, Seminole and Tarpon Springs — would see no change in their tax rate. Gandy is served by St. Petersburg. High Point is jointly served by Pinellas Park and Largo.

But the tax rates in the other six would go up.

Tierra Verde, which is served by the Lealman Fire Department, would see the smallest increase, about 0.2 percent, from $1.909 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable property to $1.912. The requested increase comes from a $7,000 proposed increase in operating costs and a $63,000 increase for savings.

In unincorporated Largo, the proposal would increase the rate by about 1.4 percent, from about $3.51 to $3.56. The increase is needed, LaSala said, because property values there dropped by about 4 percent.

Property owners in the unincorporated Safety Harbor area would see their rates increase from about $2.68 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable value to about $2.76, a 3.1 percent rise. The funding — about $29,000 — would go into reserves.

Property owners in the unincorporated areas served by South Pasadena, Clearwater and Dunedin would see much larger increases.

In the South Pasadena fire district, where many property owners have long complained about high fire rates, there would be a 43.6 percent jump in the property tax rate. That would take it from the current $3.13 per thousand dollars of property value to $4.49. The increased revenue would be used to cover higher operating costs, among other items.

LaSala has proposed raising the fire tax rate for residents of unincorporated Clearwater by about 20.7 percent. That would take the rate from about $2.66 to about $3.21. The increase is needed, he said, because of a 6.4 percent decrease in property values in that district and a $150,000 jump in operating costs, among other things.

Property owners in the unincorporated Dunedin area would see the largest increase — about 57.4 percent, from about $2.26 to about $3.55 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable property value. Among the reasons for the increase are a 0.5 percent decrease in property values and a proposed increase of about $153,000 in operating costs.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

* Service provided by Largo

** Service provided by St. Petersburg

*** Service provided by Largo and Pinellas Park

**** Service provided by Lealman

***** Per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable property value. To figure your estimated property tax, subtract exemptions (such as homestead) from the assessed value of the property. Divide that result by 1,000 and then multiply by the tax rate.

Source: Pinellas County

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