Re: “PSTA Board endorses Greenlight Pinellas,” Sept. 12. Editor: The comment by Belleair Bluffs City Commissioner Joseph Barkley regarding the requested change in the PSTA funding structure that “this is, in fact, not a tax that we’re adding on, it’s simply an exchange from one tax to another and it’s very important that people not view this as an additional tax” calls for a critical response.
Comments similar to this by other government and PSTA officials intended to promote the November 2014 referendum that would exchange the current property tax for a sales tax increase are, at best, misleading and at worst, disingenuous false statements.
The current, as well as the proposed, PSTA property tax is 0.7305 mills which in my case amounts to $26.74 this year and $27.81 next year according to the latest TRIM notice from the Property Appraisers Office. The difference between the two years is $1.07. It can be assumed that future years will have similar increases as property values increase.
The proposal to raise the sales tax (a regressive tax that forces lower-income persons to pay a higher fraction of their income in taxes than do higher-income persons) from 7 to 8 percent would be dramatically different than the mere one-dollar property tax increase I incur today. For example, if a household in Pinellas County spends $30,000 on taxable goods and services per year, the current 7 percent sales tax totals $2,100. However, increasing the sales tax to 8 percent results in a $2,400 total and a difference of $300 per year. If I spent that much, the increased sales tax cost would be $299 per year more than my current transit property tax.
While I support, in general, the concept of public transit as a public good which should be available to those who need it and for which I am willing to pay a reasonable amount in taxes, I cannot accept the line being presented that swapping the property tax for a sales tax will be almost revenue neutral, because that is not true. For the vast majority of property owners in the county who do not now and possibly never will use transit, the significant cost increase to us between the property tax and the sales tax will outweigh any foreseeable benefit. And, it is in the best interests of those who support enhanced transit to stop implying that the proposed property tax for a sales tax swap is a wash – it isn’t.