Monday, December 11, 2017
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.

Comments

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17