The Penny for Pinellas is all about quality of life. Across the county, voters can see how the 1-cent sales tax has proven its value over the last 30 years. There are more fire stations, smoother roads, bigger parks, better libraries. There's a recreation trail running the length of the county, a bridge connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater and spring training stadiums that draw thousands of fans annually. These and dozens more projects benefitted from Penny for Pinellas revenues. Now voters are being asked to renew the tax for another 10 years, from 2020 to 2030. They should do so.
The tax, which is split roughly half and half between the county and the cities, adds 1 cent on the dollar to the state's 6-cent sales tax. It is not collected on essentials such as food and medicine. About one-third of the revenue is paid by tourists and visitors, but it's Pinellas residents who will benefit from the $2 billion the penny is expected to raise over the next decade.
The county and city governments, using plenty of citizen input, have compiled lists of projects to be completed with penny funds. They include amenities such as new playground equipment and miles of new sidewalks. Just as important, a renewed penny would fund critical infrastructure projects that simply couldn't be built using only property tax dollars.
Here's a sample of some of the major projects the extended penny would pay for. You can view the complete lists at pinellascounty.org/penny.
• Pinellas County: $412 million to rebuild roads and bridges, improve intersections, resurface trail sections and install sidewalks where there are gaps.
• $183 million for flood prevention and water quality projects, including preventing stormwater from flooding sewer systems.
• $91 million on public safety, including expanding capacity at emergency shelters — a known need after Hurricane Irma.
• St. Petersburg: $90 million on upgrades to the dilapidated sewer system, which is responsible for some 200 million gallons of wastewater being spilled or dumped in area waterways, and hundreds of millions more being pumped underground.
• Clearwater: $8 million to redevelop Coachman Park and the surrounding area, which is seen as key to reviving downtown and enhancing tourism.
• Gulf beaches: Street and sidewalk improvements on Gulf Boulevard, park upgrades, street lighting, seawalls and handicap beach access.
On Tuesday, voters should say yes to these smart investments in the quality of life in Pinellas County.