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Pinellas County ballot questions: Times Editorial Board recommendations
Several cities and towns have charter amendments or referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot.
One of the many ballot questions in Pinellas include a new tax structure for funding the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District.
One of the many ballot questions in Pinellas include a new tax structure for funding the Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue District. [ Tom Germond ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 6|Updated Oct. 6

The Times Editorial Board has already published recommendations on St. Petersburg’s four ballot questions, the Clearwater Bluffs project and the Largo recreation center proposal. You can find all of the Times recommendations published so far by clicking here.

Here are the recommendations for the remaining charter amendments and referendums that will appear on Pinellas County ballots, depending on which city you live in.

Largo referendum 1 — Authority to grant economic development tax exemption: Yes

A “yes” vote would extend for another 10 years a tax exemption designed to encourage job growth and investment in Largo. The city commission would continue to have the authority to provide property tax breaks to businesses that meet certain criteria, including creating well-paying jobs or expand significantly. This tax incentive is similar to ones in other cities.

While this editorial board has misgivings about certain kinds of business tax break incentives, the reality is that cities without them can be left at a disadvantage, something we pointed out in our recommendation for a similar tax incentive proposal on the ballot in St. Petersburg. The incentives can help get businesses to the negotiating table.

On Largo’s referendum 1, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in other races.

Dunedin amendment 1 — Charter review committee appointments: Yes

This amendment would allow the city commission to appoint people to the commission that reviews the city’s charter every seven years, up from every five years now. The move makes sense in that it can take years for the appointed commission to review and address some charter recommendations. An extra two years would provide more continuity.

On Dunedin’s amendment 1, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Dunedin amendment 2 — Ordinance review committee appointments: Yes

A “yes” vote would allow the city commission to appoint an Ordinance Review Committee as often as it deems necessary, instead of every five years. This is a practical proposal that would give the commission more flexibility in monitoring new ordinances.

On Dunedin’s amendment 2, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Indian Shores amendment 1 — Qualifications for office: Yes

This amendment would require that the mayor and council members live in Indian Shores for at least one year to qualify to run for office, up from six months. One year is more in line with many other communities and ensures candidates have a better understanding of the challenges facing Indian Shores.

On Indian Shores amendment 1, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Indian Shores amendment 2 — Mayor as registered agent: Yes

This question asks voters to amend the city charter to make the mayor the registered agent and remove the mayor’s administrative duties. This is little technical, but the move would better establish the duties of the mayor and the town administrator.

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On Indian Shore amendment 2, the Times recommends voting yes.

Indian Shores amendment 3 — Vice mayor rotation: No

Currently, after every regular town election, the town council votes on which member of the council will act as vice mayor. This amendment would instead require that the council member with the most seniority on the council serve the term as vice mayor. After serving the term, they would drop to the bottom of the rotation, and the council member with the next most seniority would become vice mayor.

We understand the desire to avoid conflict and acrimony in picking a vice mayor, but part of a council’s job is to make these kinds of decisions. Besides, just because someone has seniority does not necessarily mean they would make a good vice mayor. You know who knows who would make a good vice mayor? The other council members. They should make the pick.

On Indian Shore amendment 3, the Times recommends voting No.

Indian Shores amendment 4 — Holding other public offices: Yes

This would clarify that elected town officials cannot hold another public offices, bringing the town charter into line with the Florida Constitution.

On Indian Shore amendment 4, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Indian Shores amendment 5 — Charter offices: Yes

The position of town administrator is not currently described in the town charter despite the town employing a town administrator. This amendment would help clarify the language.

On Indian Shore amendment 5, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Madeira Beach amendment 1 — Qualification and term of office: Yes

This provision would clear up a scheduling issue about when newly elected commission members’ terms begin. It’s a common sense move that will ensure the commission has a full contingent of commissioners in the weeks after an election.

On Madeira Beach amendment 1, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Madeira Beach amendment 2 — Induction of newly elected member of board of commissioners: Yes

This provision goes hand-in-hand with amendment 1. It updates the meeting schedule for newly elected commissioners and eliminates conflicting language.

On Madeira Beach amendment 2, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Treasure Island amendment 1 — Update personnel system: Yes

This amendment would remove outdated language about the city’s personnel system. The move would update the charter to better reflect how the city handles personnel practices.

On Treasure Island amendment 1, the Times recommends voting Yes .

Treasure Island amendment 2 — Signature requirement: Yes

This amendment would bring the city charter in line with Florida statutes when it comes to the number of signatures required on a charter amendment petition. It would change the language to 10%.

On Treasure Island amendment 2, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue referendum 1 — Approve a fire district tax: Yes

The Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue services Belleair Beach, Belleair Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and unincorporated Oakhurst. Most homeowners in the district pay a flat rate of $360 a year for the fire service. This amendment would allow the fire district to collect a tax based on property values. The amendment calls for a tax of up to 0.67 mills, which is $67 for every $100,000 in taxable value. So a property owner in the district with a home worth $300,000 (with no tax exceptions) would pay a maximum of $201 a year.

Among other financial needs, two of the district three fire stations are more than 50 years old and the district has no money available to replace them, officials have said publicly. The fire district officials project that the updated tax structure would provide the money the district needs through 2043.

This is a smart proposal that more fairly spreads the burden based on property values, instead of paying the same flat fee no matter how big or small the property. Plus, Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue is currently the only fire district in the county that does not use what’s called an ad valorem tax. It’s time voters made this needed upgrade.

On Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue referendum 1, the Times recommends voting Yes.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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