Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Palm Harbor residents will pay slightly higher taxes for library, rec department

PALM HARBOR — Tucked inside the agenda for the Sept. 18 County Commission meeting was an item that might have been overlooked by those focused on the larger numbers involved with approving the $1.69 billion 2013 Pinellas County budget.

But that item had the full attention of Gene Coppola and Erica Lynford, who lead the Palm Harbor Library and Palm Harbor Recreation Department, respectively.

For the first time in six years, county commissioners approved an increase in the property tax rate in unincorporated Palm Harbor back to its cap, which is one-quarter mill for library services and one-quarter mill for recreation services.

What this means is Palm Harbor's library and the recreation department will receive an estimated increase of $90,000 in funding from local taxpayers in the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

In 1985 Palm Harbor voters approved two special taxes for their unincorporated area: 25 cents on every $1,000 of taxable property value for the library and another 25 cents for recreation. Under those rates, a resident with a home with a taxable value of $100,000 after all exemptions would pay $25 for library services and $25 for recreation services each year.

However, since 2007 the commissioners had held the total rate at 0.45 mill. When the County Commission approved the county budget Tuesday, the total rate went to .50.

Wednesday night at the monthly meeting of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, the volunteer board that overseas the library and recreation departments, Coppola let out a loud "Hallelujah!'' after presenting his final 2013 library budget of $1,153,080.

If the millage had stayed at the lesser amount, Coppola knew he would need to tap his capital fund for the second time in two years to generate enough operating funds. One year ago, he pulled $96,000 from that fund.

"And that's something I really dreaded doing again. That's money for a rainy day,'' he said.

With the increased revenue from the higher millage rate, Coppola can avoid drawing down the capital fund and instead give raises to his employees. "It's been four years since library staff has seen an increase in pay,'' he said.

He will also be able to purchase new computers and Kindles for public use. There will also be a bit of renovation, including installation of portable walls that will pull back to help with conference and meeting space.

"Now we've got a plan indicative in keeping the library up to speed with the digital age,'' he said.

On Wednesday, Lynford received approval for her 2013 budget as well. It is set at $1,282,954.

She plans on using about half of the additional millage money for grounds care and maintenance funding. "When you think about it, we've spent the same amount on maintaining fields as we did six years ago. Over time, cost of materials has gone up. We've really needed this,'' she said.

The other half she will put in the Parks and Recreation capital fund for future work on facilities.

After the meeting, Lynford pointed out that she understands first hand the challenges of higher taxes. "I am a homeowner. I own a home in Palm Harbor,'' she said.

Using her own property tax notice as an example, Lynford explained how the numbers play out. Last year, she paid $22.38 in Palm Harbor community services taxes. This year it will be $23.97.

"That's an increase of $1.60. That means I am giving 80 more cents to the Palm Harbor Library and 80 more cents to Parks and Rec for the year,'' she said.

Although the East Lake Community Library falls under the supervision of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, it does not receive funding from the Palm Harbor property tax. However, on Wednesday, East Lake library director Patricia Perez also presented a final budget of $468,000 for the agency board to approve.

The bulk of the East Lake Library's funding comes from the Pinellas County general fund as well as the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, which collects tax dollars from unincorporated areas of the county and distributes the money to existing libraries.

Perez hopes to see funding for her library increase in the future.

"Our longterm strategic goal is for this library to collect taxes from its own community. We'd like the taxes collected in East Lake to stay in East Lake, but until then, we'll make do,'' she said.

During the meeting, the board also approved Perez's request to make the shortened hours of operation, created in July, the permanent schedule. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.

Comments
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

TAMPA — Nick Genovese was anxious.The 21-year-old from Land O’Lakes had come to Thunder Alley outside Amalie Arena hoping to see the Tampa Bay Lightning triumph over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference winner-take-all Game...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Updated: 27 minutes ago

Woman hit, killed while crossing road in Tampa

TAMPA — A pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing N 40th Street near E Hanlon Street on Wednesday night, according to Tampa police.The crash took place just before 8 p.m. The driver was heading north on 40th Street before strikin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

TAMPA — Forget Vegas.The Lightning have left the building.No more season. No more watch parties. No more anything.There is no way around it. Jon Cooper's team couldn't finish, not in Game 7 at home, not in the Eastern Conference final...
Updated: 1 hour ago