Friday, June 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Go easy on tax increases

The economy may be picking up, but for many Pinellas County residents, the clouds have not yet lifted. County commissioners need to think long and hard before they rush to embrace a budget plan that could raise property tax rates by 9.5 percent next year, with nearly half of it earmarked for the county's savings account. County administrator Bob LaSala believes its time for the county to start planning for the next recession, but county commissioners need to consider the broader view of what's best for the taxpayer, not just for county coffers.

No one in local government has had an easy time of it in the past five years. LaSala, in giving his presentation this week to the commission, highlighted just how hard it has been in Pinellas County. Since 2007, the county has cut nearly 1,700 jobs, and property tax receipts are down 35 percent due to declines in property values. Even the current level of service is possible only because the county for the past three years has been spending some of the significant reserves it had built up.

The county had planned to spend the final $10 million from reserves to cover next year's anticipated shortfall of $9.3 million. But on Tuesday, LaSala proposed raising the county's tax rate for the second year in a row to avoid that reserve spending but also to sock away some more money, cover some unanticipated retirement costs forced by the Legislature and give pay raises, the first in four years.

LaSala proposed raising the tax rate about 5 percent to cover additional operating costs without dipping into reserves. But he proposed another 4 percent increase to flow to reserves in anticipation of a future recession. The combined impact: The county's property tax millage rate would grow from $5.01 per $1,000 taxable property value to $5.49.

And if that isn't enough: The continued inability of county and local fire officials to agree on how to cut costs in the county's emergency medical services system means the EMS property tax rate could also climb 8 percent next year — the third increase in as many years.

It's too much. There is no doubt that county government has been battered and bruised in recent years. And it's true that the shrewd investments of past commissions in compiling reserves have kept recent budgets from being more painful. But the question is always timing.

If LaSala's job is to find a good plan for government, then commissioners' job over the next two months is to pass a budget that balances that need with what is also good for citizens in fiscal year 2014. The economic cloud for many families in Pinellas hasn't fully parted, and a county government that takes more money out of their pockets to simply stash in reserves won't be helping them.

Comments
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBIís handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18