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Penny issue tops Tuesday ballot

(ran Beach edition)

Tuesday is Election Day, again.

Instead of electing government officials, residents in the south Pinellas beach communities will cast their vote on whether to extend the Penny for Pinellas sales tax.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The tax is set to expire in February 2000 unless voters approve the 10-year extension.

Supporters of the 1 percent infrastructure sales tax say it will generate $1.4-billion for quality of life improvements over 10 years. The money would be divided among the county government and Pinellas' 24 municipalities.

Opponents of the measure say the tax places a burden on the poor and does not force officials to cut government spending.

Among the beach communities, the penny tax has helped pay for millions of dollars worth of projects.

For example:

Treasure Island has spent $2.5-million for police cars and municipal building renovations, among other items. To come? A new city hall.

St. Pete Beach has spent $3.5-million on street resurfacing and a new bridge, among other projects. Slated for the future is $1-million in street resurfacing.

Redington Shores has spent $400,000 on land acquisitions. With another penny, officials want to remodel Town Hall and build a new firehouse.