1. Archive


Sponsors of two of three referendums have their fingers crossed that the proposals are not swept away in a rising tide of anti-tax sentiment. The third referendum, on whether to establish a special taxing district for the Sheriff's Office, seemingly has been orphaned in a political fight between the County Commission and the sheriff.

To prevent all three from being defeated at the polls, advocates have tried to explain the proposals well enough to let voters sort out what they do and do not like about each.

The first question would create a Children's Services Council similar to the Juvenile Welfare Board that Pinellas County has had for more than 40 years.

Supporters say the council would be a cost-effective way to finance counseling, rehabilitation, recreation and other programs for children. The goal would be to prevent youngsters with small problems from becoming adults with big problems, advocates say.

"Our position is that you can build prison beds continuously and still need more if you're not providing for human development up front," said Bill Alexander, director of student services for the Pasco County School Board and a supporter of the proposed council.

The council's 10 members would include four elected officials and a representative of the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. The governor would appoint the remaining five from 15 nominees submitted by the County Commission.

If approved, the council could levy a property tax of up to half a mill, or 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value.

The second referendum on the ballot is a proposal to create a tourism development tax. Supporters stress that although Pasco residents will decide whether to impose the tax, they will pay little of it.

"They are not going to pay for it; they are going to benefit from it," said Dara Khoyi, a West Pasco developer who is president of the Concourse Council, which hopes to benefit from the tax.

Tourists and seasonal residents would pay virtually all of the tax. They would pay a 2 percent tax on hotel rooms, motel rooms and other properties leased or rented for less than six months.

The Committee for a Better Pasco County, a political committee formed to promote the tax, has distributed literature saying the tax would make tourists pay "their fair share to the community instead of just helping overcrowd our highways."

Pasco officials estimate that the tax would raise $480,000 a year. Half the money would go for tourist-related projects, 40 percent would be used to promote Pasco and 10 percent would be used for administration.

Unlike the first two referendums, the third issue has not had a group campaigning on its behalf. The referendum, which has been controversial since county commissioners voted on Oct. 2 to schedule it, would create a special taxing district to raise funds for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Commissioners put the matter on the ballot because they doubt that residents support Sheriff Jim Gillum's requests for additional funds as strongly as he says.

"I think we're going to get a true pulse of the people," Commissioner Mike Wells said.

Gillum has condemned the referendum as a political ploy sprung at the last moment. He expects it to fail and vows to keep fighting for the funds he requests.

"I don't intend to get off their budget backs," he said. "As long as I'm sheriff of this county, I'm going to be out there talking to people about their squandering."

If the referendum is approved, the County Commission could set a property tax of up to 10 mills _ or $10 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value _ for law enforcement.

The referendum comes after the second straight year of acrimonious budget negotiations between the commission and Gillum, who has criticized commissioners for not using county reserve funds to meet his budget request.

Gillum's 1990-91 sheriff's budget totals $29.1-million. That's $5.5-million shy of what the sheriff requested.