Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach weighs tax rate; did commissioner overstep?

ST. PETE BEACH — Property tax bills are slated to drop in 2014, but by precisely how much could become a contentious issue.

Mayor Steve McFarlin wrote a blistering email Monday criticizing Commissioner Jim Parent for what the mayor said was an inappropriate push for higher property taxes.

The incident occurred at last week's meeting of the Finance and Budget Review Committee, which is responsible for reviewing the city manager's proposed budget and either approving it or recommending changes to the full commission.

"It appears that due to the intrusion into your (the committee's) deliberations by Commissioner Parent, the integrity of this process has been severely compromised this year," McFarlin wrote in an email copied to the entire commission, the city clerk and the city manager.

Parent defended himself in a subsequent email. He could not be reached for comment.

"I believe I made (the comments) as a private citizen," Parent wrote. "I don't believe that we, as elected officials, give up our right to care about our City from the perspective of a resident and as a taxpayer."

When Parent spoke at the committee meeting he suggested they consider raising instead of lowering property taxes to cover the $10,000 they wanted added to the parks facilities maintenance budget.

"I would also encourage you to fund an operational reserve for unexpected expenses and opportunistic things," Parent told the committee. "It would be nice in my mind to have $50,000 to 100,000 pocket money."

After about half an hour of debate, the committee vote unanimously to recommend a property tax rate of 3.0 mills, slightly higher than that proposed by city manager Mike Bonfield. The current millage rate is 3.2819 mills.

One mill is equivalent to $1 of tax for each $ 1,000 of assessed, nonexempt real property.

The city manager originally proposed a tax rate of 2.8569 mills. According to Bonfield, that would save property owners $51.28 for every $100,000 of assessed taxable value after all exemptions.

It would also mean a nearly $600,000 drop in revenue for the city.

If the commission accepts the Finance and Budget Review Committee recommendation, tax bills would still drop next year, but not by as much.

The 3.0 mill tax rate would also generate an additional $285,000 over Bonfield's recommended $23.5 million budget.

That money would be put into the commission's budget to be spent on emergency maintenance or repair items, as well as for other unanticipated programs or activities.

One key point during the debate was whether residents are expecting a significant drop in their property tax bills because of the savings created when the city closed the police department and contracted with the Sheriff's Office for law enforcement.

"If you think the public has the expectation that going to the Sheriff would lower millage, you should lower the millage," Bonfield told the committee.

Parent then suggested that the committee could reduce the millage by any amount that would be less than the current millage rate.

"You could still meet several goals and have a lessened tax bill," Parent told the committee.

Following McFarlin's complaint, City Attorney Mike Davis reviewed city policies as they applied to Parent's actions at the committee meeting and eventually discovered a commission resolution approved in 2005 setting conduct rules for commission interaction with citizen committees and boards.

Those guidelines caution commissioners about "influencing" citizen boards or committees or "prejudicing" eventual city commission consideration of those groups' recommendations.

Specifically, commissioners are allowed to attend citizen committee meetings, but the guidelines say they should "be sensitive to the way in which their presence may be viewed as unfairly affecting the process."

Commissioners also are required to preface their opinions with the caveat that they are not representing the commission as a whole.

St. Pete Beach weighs tax rate; did commissioner overstep? 07/09/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 5:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who will headline the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa?

    Blogs

    The NFL announced Tuesday that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in 2021, a result of stadium construction delays in Los Angeles.

    Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?
  2. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  3. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis

    Religion

    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  4. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its

  5. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana

    Blogs

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.