Friday, April 27, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Pinellas should pay its debt on land

If Pinellas County is too arrogant or too busy to pay its property tax bills in a timely manner, then it should it sell its real estate holdings in Pasco County or at least grant greater public access to the 12,400 acres known as the Cross Bar and Al Bar ranches.

For the second straight year, Pinellas County irresponsibly ignored its Pasco tax bill and is more than $100,000 in arrears to its neighbor. The land, acquired originally as a groundwater source, includes an educational center and profitmaking 5,000-acre pine tree farm. The 17 wellheads on the site are now owned by Tampa Bay Water, and regional water policies have made obsolete the strategy of each local government hoarding parochial water supplies. There is no public purpose for Pinellas County government to continue to own this land in Pasco County.

Two months ago, the Pinellas County Commission unreasonably rejected Pasco's overtures to buy the land and turn it into a publicly accessible wildlife preserve with hiking and bicycle trails. Then Pinellas County's legal staff sent a March 27 letter to Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano saying the land was tax-exempt and Pinellas would cease its previous voluntary tax payments.

Pinellas made the same contention in 2013 in a dispute that remains unresolved. If it fails to settle last year's account by April 1, 2015, the land can be sold at auction. Pinellas contends that won't happen, but the deadline means a likely court fight — a position that confounds at lease one Pinellas commissioner who doesn't recall authorizing a tax dispute with a neighboring county. "There's a lot of ways we can collaborate with our partners more effectively,'' said Commissioner Ken Welch, who advocated selling the land to Pasco County.

There are no financial constraints motivating the tax delinquency. The balance sheet in a 2012 audit indicates Pinellas has never been in a better position to fulfill the ranch's financial obligations. The agri-timber operations turned a profit in 2011 and were expected to do so for another decade. Meanwhile, the Pasco School District, for the first time, paid $27,600 to Pinellas, or half the annual operating expenses, at the education center on the premises. The ranch showed a $385,000 gross operating profit in 2011 even after making its nearly $50,000 tax payment to Pasco. Not bad for somebody crying poor mouth.

Pasco taxpayers and Pinellas utility customers shouldn't be asked to finance an unnecessary legal battle between two publicly funded entities. Pinellas County should pay its debts and then divest itself of this land.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

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Updated: 11 hours ago
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...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
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

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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