Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: One property tax hike at a time in Pinellas

The Pinellas County Commission has chosen a prudent approach to proposed property tax increases. The commissioners signaled this week that they are likely to raise the property tax rate by 5 percent to cover a budget shortfall and modest raises for county employees, but they rejected additional increases to build reserves and pay for emergency medical services. All three proposed tax rate increases may have merit as public policy, but combined they were too much at one time for Pinellas taxpayers.

On top of the 5 percent property tax rate increase to cover operating costs, County Administrator Bob LaSala wanted an additional 4 percent increase to start building that rainy day account back up. With too many Pinellas residents still struggling, the timing isn't good for the county to bank some money that taxpayers cannot afford to pay.

By rejecting LaSala's proposed property tax rate increase for EMS, commissioners are putting more pressure on themselves to overhaul the system and save money. Spending reserves to avoid increasing EMS taxes for the third straight year is a short-term solution to a bigger problem: The system that uses both public fire departments and a private ambulance company may work well, but it is too expensive and not sustainable without some changes. A new consultant's report finds fault with several suggested options and offers no silver bullet, so it's up to the commissioners to move on an issue that has paralyzed them for years.

Even with two of the three proposed property tax increases off the table, Pinellas property owners will feel the pain. Without considering rising property values, the average county resident can expect to pay roughly $100 more next year in taxes, a new stormwater fee and other fees. That's plenty.

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‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18