Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

To grow reserves, Pinellas administrator wants higher tax rate

Property taxes in Pinellas County could go up next year more than officials initially let on.

In the footnotes of a budget presentation county administrator Bob LaSala gave on Tuesday is a proposal to raise the general fund tax rate by nearly 10 percent next year, almost twice what was originally reported.

LaSala's presentation to the board focused on a 5 percent tax increase to pay for state-imposed costs and raises for county and sheriff employees. But he also suggested a second tax hike to build up the county's rainy day fund.

Pinellas has just over $10 million in reserves — money it put away over the last several years by making deep cuts and laying off employees. Instead of draining that fund to cover an anticipated $9 million budget shortfall next year, LaSala is proposing that the county keeping adding to it.

To plug next year's gap and fill an expected deficit in 2015, he wants to increase the general fund tax rate by 5 percent.

On top of that, he is proposing an additional rate hike of slightly more than 4 percent, making the general fund tax rate a total $5.49 per $1,000 of taxable value, up from this year's rate of $5.01.For a homeowner with a property valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption, this would mean paying $549, up from $501 the year before.

The additional rate increase would bring in slightly less than $12 million a year, according to assistant county administrator Mark Woodard.

"The idea is that it would be put aside until such time that we hit that rainy day or that economic downturn, and then it would be applied to maintain service levels," Woodard said.

Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

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