1. Archive

East Lake can't afford not to approve library tax

Editor: Needless to say, I was elated to read your Sunday editorial, which recommends a "yes" vote on the East Lake library and recreation referendums. However, I think a few very important additional facts and figures also should be pointed out:

1. The library referendum question gives the residents of the East Lake area an opportunity to replace the existing one-half mill (cap) tax they are now paying with a one-quarter mill (cap) tax for exactly the same countywide library services and privileges. (One mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed, non-exempt real property). Plus, it allows them to have their own library in the East Lake area!

Four of the five county commissioners (one was absent), the county administrator and the county attorney all agreed at a public hearing Sept. 18 that the residents of East Lake would remain participating members of the county library cooperative, regardless of whether the library referendum is approved.

2. The county library cooperative maintains an 8 percent reserve in its total budget for additions to existing libraries, construction of new libraries or purchase of improvements to service other participants. The 8 percent reserve amounts to only about $180,000 and can be requested for use by any of the current 13 participating libraries.

The one-half mill (cap) tax that East Lake residents are paying for countywide library services amounts to about $397,000! Even if the county library cooperative should be so generous as to commit the entire 8 percent reserve to the construction and operation of a library in East Lake, the residents of East Lake still would be paying twice as much into the countywide system as they would get in return!

If the county library cooperative could build and operate a library in the East Lake area with $180,000 annually, then certainly East Lake could build and operate a library with the proposed one-quarter mill (cap) library tax, which will generate more than $198,000 the first year alone and will increase annually as East Lake continues to grow.

3. The county administrator has stated that, should the library referendum pass, construction of a library in East Lake, along with architectural and engineering plans, furnishings and interest, could be financed with a short-term loan from a local bank and a matching state construction grant. Upon completion of construction, the short-term bank loan could be repaid in full, including interest, with long-term, low-interest municipal bonds. A resident's tax would never exceed the one-quarter mill (cap) tax.

Membership in the countywide library system could be retained by either providing an acceptable temporary library facility or paying the current per capita rate ($10.74) times the current population (16,500) and would amount to about $177,000. This is the current charge to cities and municipal services taxing units without library facilities that wish for their residents to belong to the countywide library system.

The new one-quarter mill library tax, which would replace the one-half mill library tax, would be more than sufficient to pay this fee. Based on a 1990 East Lake taxable property value of $793,821,530, the one-quarter mill library tax would generate $198,455 in 1990 and would increase annually as property values increase and more construction is added to the tax rolls. East Lake residents then would be paying off their own long-term bonds instead of helping other cities pay off theirs.

Once the East Lake library facility is complete and is accepted into the county system, it would receive state and federal monies along with a share of the county library funds. At no time would East Lake residents be without county library facilities, and their tax for library services would never exceed one-quarter mill (cap) under this proposed library referendum.

4. East Lake is the only area in North Pinellas County that does not provide public funds to support recreational facilities and programs for its children. Your newspaper, as well as others, has referred to East Lake as being an affluent area of North Pinellas County. Whether this description is true or not, the residents of East Lake certainly can afford to take care of their children and provide them with facilities for such organized sports as Little League baseball, football and soccer.

The Upper Pinellas Youth Sports Association has offered to donate its million-dollar-plus facility to the residents of East Lake almost debt-free. Can we afford to pass up such an offer and refuse to support such needed facilities?

I sincerely hope that the residents of East Lake check out these facts and vote "yes" on both library and recreation referendums Tuesday.

Bill Nobles, East Lake

"Yes' vote would give needed services

Editor: It is more important than ever in this day and age that we as adults provide a place for our children to participate in positive and instructive activities.

In East Lake we have a beautiful 26-acre recreation complex on Old Keystone Road that is supported entirely by private donations and maintained entirely by volunteers. As our population continues to grow, it becomes more and more difficult to operate the complex in that manner.

In 1990 we have more than 800 children participating in baseball, softball, soccer and football. In 1991 we likely will have more than 1,000 children.

The recreational programs in many surrounding communities are at or near capacity with their own children. We need to keep this complex going for our children.

Passage of the recreation referendum not only will provide funds for youth sports, but will allow the community to provide active and passive activities for children and adults alike.

Regarding William Kelledes' letter on the library:

1. Anyone who has tried to get to the Tarpon Springs or Palm Harbor libraries from many parts of East Lake has found it anything but an easy drive.

2. The Pinellas County School Board has shown it will support the use of a school library facility (such as East Lake High School) as a community library. It is being done very successfully at Azalea Middle School.

3. Bernadette Storck, administrator of the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, has made it clear that even with a library in East Lake, we will still belong to the cooperative and consequently will be able to continue to use all libraries in the cooperative.

The important part for all citizens of the East Lake Tarpon Fire District to remember is this:

Passage of the library and recreation referendums on Tuesday will not increase our taxes. It will simply take those same tax dollars and keep them in our community. It will allow them to be spent on activities and facilities that will directly benefit all residents of East Lake.

Rick Watson, president,

Upper Pinellas Soccer Association

Change at welcome center is unfair

Editor: After 15 years of loyal and excellent service to the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and to the visitors and citizens of Clearwater, Charles Herbert has been relieved of his duties as manager of the Clearwater Beach Welcome Center.

This decision has been met with feelings of disappointment and disbelief by those familiar with the high quality of work Mr. Herbert has afforded the community and its tourists.

Accommodating, well-informed, enthusiastic and gracious, Mr. Herbert has long been the single most important asset our community extends to its new visitors.

The decision to replace him with two part-time employees is ill-advised and impractical. It demonstrates a callous, unfeeling attitude toward a loyal employee, an attitude inconsistent with the image we would like the Chamber to present.

Those of us who appreciate the high quality of Herbert's performance urge the Chamber to reconsider this disastrous decision.

Alice Levine, Clearwater

Vote can tell state to pay up or shut up

Editor: This year we have a chance to improve government in Florida. This year we can support a proposed constitutional amendment that makes the state Legislature pay for the services it mandates.

Mandates are actions required of cities and counties by state law without any specified financial resources. It's then up to local government to find the financial resources necessary to pay for these new mandated programs or services.

The issue is simple (even though the language of the proposed amendment is not). Every year the state legislators pass laws that they cannot or will not pay for. This year, Clearwater's "bill" is about $3.8-million. The state legislators simply pass on the costs to local government while claiming they have not raised taxes.

A "yes" vote for Amendment 3 means politicians from other parts of Florida won't be able to tell us how to spend our local tax money. The decision to spend local tax dollars will remain in the hands of your locally elected officials.

Amendment 3 does not affect laws already in existence. It affects only new laws enacted by the Legislature. Many cities in Florida, including Clearwater, have passed resolutions strongly supporting Amendment 3.

I urge all voters of Florida to join with me and vote "yes" on Amendment 3 on Tuesday. Voting "yes" will send a message to Tallahassee to let local government control our local taxes.

Rita Garvey, mayor of Clearwater

Editor: To residents of Belleair Beach and voters throughout the state of Florida.

This year we have a chance to ensure good government in Florida. This year we can pass a law that makes the state Legislature pay for the laws it passes.

We urge all our neighbors here in Belleair Beach to join with us and vote "yes" on Amendment 3 on Election Day. Voting "yes" will send a message to Tallahassee to let local government control our local property taxes.

The issue is simple. Every year the state government passes laws that it cannot pay for. It simply passes the costs on to us in the form of high local taxes and reduced local services, such as police and fire protection.

Amendment 3 would ensure that politicians from other parts of Florida won't be able to tell us how to spend our local tax money. Keep local taxes local.

Please join us in voting "yes" on Amendment 3.

Bill Atteberry, mayor;

Kaye Woolcott, council presiding officer,

Belleair Beach

Library grateful for help after fire

Editor: The Clearwater Public Library System wishes to thank the residents of the greater Clearwater area for their patience and good will during the recent fire that closed the Clearwater main library Oct. 22-24.

During this time, library staff at Clearwater East Library, Clearwater Countryside Library, the North Greenwood Branch and the Beach Branch cooperated in serving the public by extending telephone service and adding additional staff to meet the needs of the public.

The library would like to extend its appreciation in particular to Steven Kelly and Frank Craddock of the Clearwater Building and Maintenance Division for their immediate response to this emergency. In addition, the Clearwater Fire Department and Florida Power Corp. are to be commended.

Special thanks also go to the staff of the Clearwater Public Library System for its mature handling of evacuation of the main library.

The Clearwater Public Library System extends its sincere apology for the inconvenience caused by the fire but hopes that during this time patrons took the opportunity to discover the resources offered by the branches. The Clearwater main library looks forward to welcoming everyone once again.

Linda Mielke, director

Clearwater Public Library System