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St. Petersburg may vote in November on the Dalí, biz tax breaks, election cycles

City Council will decide Thursday whether four referendum questions will be on the midterm ballot.
With $17.5 million granted to them by the Pinellas County Tourism Development Council, the Dali Museum is looking to expand its campus on the St. Petersburg waterfront. The St. Petersburg City Council will vote on whether to place the ballot question of expanding the Dali on the November general election ballot.
With $17.5 million granted to them by the Pinellas County Tourism Development Council, the Dali Museum is looking to expand its campus on the St. Petersburg waterfront. The St. Petersburg City Council will vote on whether to place the ballot question of expanding the Dali on the November general election ballot. [ City of St. Petersburg ]
Published Aug. 2|Updated Aug. 5

ST. PETERSBURG — City residents may have questions on the November ballot after all.

The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday will consider whether to submit four questions for the November ballot to the Supervisor of Elections by the Aug. 16 deadline.

They would ask the public for permission to expand the waterfront Dalí museum, revive a business property tax exemption that narrowly failed last year and reschedule municipal elections to even-numbered years in line with state and national elections.

There’s also a housekeeping referendum question that would amend the city charter to reflect changes to City Council residency requirements because of routine redistricting, which modified district boundaries. The council could also vote Thursday to authorize $34,000 to pay for the special election on Nov. 8.

Public hearings begin at 9:30 a.m. Here’s what to know.

The Dalí’s expansion

Any changes to St. Petersburg’s coveted waterfront require a public referendum. The Dalí wants to expand its footprint, thereby triggering a city-wide vote.

The Dalí's expansion will include space for immersive experiences, education and community programming. No city funding is required for the expansion.

The ballot question allows for insurance, liability and coordination with the Dali’s neighbors: The Mahaffey Theater and the annual Grand Prix.

New election cycle

St. Petersburg elections are currently held in odd-numbered years. The city has explored moving municipal elections to even-numbered years to coincide with the state and national election cycles.

If passed, it would delay elections scheduled in 2023, setting 2024 and 2026 as the new base years for the city’s two election cycles. It would extend the current term of elected officials — meaning Mayor Ken Welch could have five years in his first term as mayor and City Council members will get an extra year in office.

Assistant City Attorney Bruce Pettigrew said the immediate election cycle shift and then resuming four-year terms is the simplest and most cost-effective approach. Intended benefits include increased voter turnout, expanding early voting at no cost and reduced overall cost.

Business property tax exemptions

The city wants to bring back its economic development property tax exemption to incentivize businesses to relocate to St. Petersburg and invest in their workspaces or create jobs.

A proposed 10-year renewal of the program, which began in 2011, failed last year by 87 votes. That question was among eight referenda and charter amendments, all but one of which failed.

If a business adds or renovates office space and their property value goes up $50,000, for example, that $50,000 would be exempt from city property taxes for five years. Or, if a business chooses to create jobs with salaries greater than the county’s average annual wage of around $50,000, then the city could give another five years of the exemption for a state-imposed maximum of 10 years.

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The exemption is capped at $100,000 per company per year, and the business must submit a letter and payroll records every year to stay in compliance. Once the exemption expires, the city can tax the business on that new, increased value. Pinellas County, Tampa, Clearwater and Largo have similar incentives.

Only two businesses have used the program since 2011: American Strategic Insurance (now Progressive) received a $100,000 exemption in 2014 for five years. The company is now paying full taxes on the $13 million investment they put into their property.

In 2020, Jabil was approved for a $67,334 annual tax break each year for the next five years after investing $11 million into its property.

Editor’s note: The proposed expansion of The Dalí no longer includes more parking or a new restaurant, but will allow for more programming. This story has been corrected to eliminate the outdated information.

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