Make us your home page

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

  1. Tampa officer treated for knee injury after police truck, police SUV collide


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A Tampa police officer was treated and released for a knee injury after an unmarked police truck collided with his patrol SUV while following a stolen car, a police spokesman said.

  2. Waiting for the eclipse: 'Everyone thinks this is cool'

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Hunter Holland came to school Monday with a NASA space T-shirt and solar viewers in his button-up shirt pocket. But he'd rather be in Missouri.

    Jayda Hebert (front, center), 11, uses her protective glasses to watch Monday's solar eclipse with her cousin, Judah Adams (back left), 11, and her brother Jake Hebert (right), 9, while with their family at St. Petersburg Beach. "We're skipping school for the eclipse," her mom, Sarah Hebert, said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  3. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed


    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
  4. Everyone on Twitter is making this same eclipse joke


    Today's total solar eclipse is, of course, a social media event as much as it is a natural phenomenon. Twitter even rolled out an #eclipse hashtag that automatically adds an eclipse emoji.

    The solar eclipse is inspiring Twitter humor.
  5. Video: See how the solar eclipse unfolded across the country


    Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the midday sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

    The moon is seen as it starts passing in front of the sun during a solar eclipse from Ross Lake, Northern Cascades National Park, in Washington on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. [Bill Ingalls | NASA via AP]