Renew tax for the sake of the schools
I am writing to inform the public about the upcoming renewal of the special Pinellas property tax for teacher salaries and the arts.
This is not a new tax. Voters have voted for it and renewed it once.
It is imperative for quality education in Pinellas County that it be renewed again in November, since our already underpaid teachers will earn more than $2,800 less per year if the tax is not renewed. Additionally, massive cuts will result in the areas of art, music and technology.
Adequate salaries are paramount if we are to attract and retain the best and the brightest to the field of education to teach our children, who are our future.
There is an additional problem facing the renewal: Simply stated, the referendum is the last item on the ballot, following the 12 lengthy state constitutional amendments. Voters need to be sure to locate the school referendum after these cumbersome and wordy amendments and vote yes.
Please support education in Pinellas County and vote to renew the referendum, while remembering this is not a new tax.
Shelley G. Foster, Clearwater
Taxpayer money not for Art Center
I read in the newspaper that the Dunedin Art Center is asking the Dunedin taxpayers to borrow $500,0000 and give it to them to match a grant from the state government (also taxpayers' money).
I believe our city officials must consider the fact that our economy is depressed and will remain so for the next few years. People are out of work and are losing their homes. Dunedin and Pinellas County have lost population and taxes and fees are increasing for property, EMS, stormwater, etc.
Borrowing money to give to an outside organization seems to be counterproductive for the taxpayers, in spite of dubious claims of spurring economic development, increased housing values, and a more attractive city. I believe our city is already a very attractive city and certainly well known for art and cultural venues. People will continue to move to Dunedin regardless of the Art Center's expansion plans.
Further, I would like to know exactly how you determined that the Art Center "generates revenue for the city — $588,000 over the past two years"?
Please identify specific benefits I can see for the money I'll borrow and pay interest on for years. I would estimate the total cost to the taxpayers will be in the amount of $700,000-plus over the life of the loan, plus the additional cost of money for the history museum and Weaver Park property.
It doesn't appear that this is the time to give taxpayers' money away when the city has delayed projects such as replacement of the dilapidated swimming pool and the dilapidated Utility Building on Milwaukee Avenue, reconstruction of San Christopher Road from Alt. U.S. 19 to County Road 1, repair of serious roof leaks at the baseball stadium, stormwater abatement and many other infrastructure projects.
Also, it would seem odd that consideration of such a request would be presented two weeks prior to the final budget approval, when the requirement for matching funds was known by the Art Center and city officials several months earlier. I wonder why this wasn't presented as a budget subject last May?
I'm generally aware that the Dunedin taxpayers have provided well over $1 million to the Art Center over the last few years, which seems to be more than enough participation from the citizens of Dunedin. With 1,600 members of the Art Center (400 from Dunedin) it would seem they should be asked to raise the needed funds.
Also, it appears the Art Center has $1.4 million in gift money which may be able to be used for such a capital expenditure. Shouldn't the city officials have already determined this possibility before they even discussed asking the taxpayers to give the Art Center borrowed money?
Bill LaFlam, Dunedin
PTSA should stop selling bus ads
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has gone into the advertising business in a big way. It is selling the windows and sides of our buses to any business that wants to advertise.
When they do this, the bus is transformed into a billboard on wheels. The bus is completely covered by the advertisement.
By law, the PSTA is commissioned to provide an efficient and safe countywide transportation system, not an advertising agency.
Like every government agency, they want more money. Their revenue source is federal, state and county grants, property tax millage (maximum .75 mill), bus fares and the sale of surplus equipment and land. When you trace them, you will find they are all taxes paid by the citizens of Pinellas in one form or another. PSTA has raised the millage annually for the last three years and are very close (.7484 mill) to the maximum.
Projected revenue for 2013 is approximately $61 million. The population in the county has declined the last three years. Why the need for more money?
After studying the law that regulates the PSTA, we found the law only stated the things they can do. The law says nothing about PSTA being allowed to sell the windows and the sides of our buses to businesses that want to advertise. The PSTA billboards on wheels are competing with private businesses that sell the billboards lining our streets. The private businesses are at a disadvantage when their taxes are used against them. This could result in a damaging lawsuit for PSTA, and the taxpayers lose again.
It is imperative that the PSTA stop selling the windows of our buses. Respect the people who have to ride the bus. Give them their windows.
Charles F. Shank, Clearwater