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County sets tentative millage rates
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Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch shares his views on social action funding during a budget work session July 30.
Pinellas County Office of Management and Budget Director Eric Naughton shows a chart giving an example of the effect millage rate changes will make for tax bills on single-family properties around the county.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners set tentative millage rates for fiscal year 2013-14 during a morning work session July 30.

Commissioners confirmed that there would be no separate millage for a stabilization fund. They also confirmed there would be no increase in the emergency medical fund millage. Short falls will be taken from EMS reserves, leaving a balance of 22.9 percent.

Commissioner Norm Roche was absent.

Proposed millage increases are as follows.

• General Fund – countywide – an increase of 0.2650 mils from 5.0105 to 5.2755

• Health Department – no change. Millage will remain at 0.0622

• EMS – no change. Millage will remain at 0.9158

• Municipal Services Taxing Unit – no change. Tax for unincorporated residents will remain at 2.0857

• Library co-op – an increase of 0.0563 from 0.4437 to 0.5000

• Pinellas Planning Council – an increase of 0.0035 from 0.0125 to 0.160

• Palm Harbor Recreation – no change. Millage will remain at 0.2500

• Palm Harbor Library – no change. Millage will remain at 0.2500

• Feather Sound Community Services – no change. Millage will remain at 0.5000

• East Lake Library Service – new taxing district. Tentative millage is 0.2500

Millage rate changes are coming for four fire districts.

• Gandy will increase by 0.0375 mils from 2.2602 to 2.2977

• Pinellas Park will increase by 0.6488 from 2.3675 to 3.0165

• Safety Harbor will increase by 0.0487 from 2.7631 to 2.8118

• Highpoint will decrease by an estimated 2.6700 mils from 4.1916 to a number yet to be finalized

County staff prepared a chart showing the effect of millage changes on the average single-family residence. A home with an assessed value of $99,967 would be taxed an additional $26.49 for general fund millage and 35 cents for the Pinellas Planning Council.

Residents living in a single-family home with an assessed value of 191,018 in East Lake will save $47.75 on library taxes. Residents living in a single-family home with an assessed value in the Gandy Fire District will pay $1.87 more in taxes. Taxpayers in a home with an assessed value of $104,176 in Highpoint Fire District will save $92.81. Homeowners of a residence with an assessed value of $115,305 in Pinellas Park Fire District will pay $34.98 more, and owners of a single-family home with an assessed value of $131,949 in Safety Harbor Fire District will pay $5.62 in additional taxes for fiscal year 2014.

Commissioner Karen Seel pointed out that the figures did not include the 3.4 percent increase in property values countywide. Staff said the numbers were representational of the changes, not exact numbers.

Staff offered estimates of tax increases for the county’s portion of the tax bill for some municipalities, including:

• $20.66 for a home with an assessed value of $76,945 in St. Petersburg

• $27.07 for a home with an assessed value of $100,835 in Clearwater

• $17.63 for a home with an assessed value of $65,660 in Largo

• $26.96 for a home with an assessed value of $100,428 in Tarpon Springs

• $25.31 for a home with an assessed value of $94,256 in Dunedin

The assessed values are the average for the municipality. The total includes millage for the general fund, EMS, Health Department and Pinellas Planning Council.

County Administrator Bob LaSala pointed out that the figures did not include the school board, municipal millage or any others not levied by Pinellas County.

Tentative millage rates will be reflected on the Truth in Millage notices to be sent from the Property Appraiser’s Office on Aug. 19. The rates can be lowered, but cannot be increased.

Commissioners will continue to take public comment on next year’s budget and millage rates at two hearings in September. The first is on Sept. 5. The budget and millage rates will be approved at the second hearing on Sept. 17.

For more information, visit www.p­inell­ascou­nty.o­rg/bu­dget/­14bud­get/b­udget­/fy20­­ml.

Social Action funding

Commissioners also discussed a plan to change the way nonprofit organizations that provide food and shelter to the needy are funded. The consensus was to restore the money for that funding to the budget for the coming year and take the difference from the stabilization fund.

Commissioners agreed that it was better to implement changes in fiscal year 2015 to give organizations time to prepare. Gwendolyn Warren, director of health and human services, is working on a plan that would ensure that the county’s money is not used to pay administrative costs or duplicative services.

“This needs time to phase in and not just pull the rug out (from under),” said Commissioner John Morroni. “We just need to say that this is the last year.”

Warren agreed that care should be taken.

“We have a need and it’s significant,” she said. “The problem is the way we distribute the funds.”

Commission Chair Ken Welch agreed that the process should be simplified and transitioned into the future.

“But I’m all for having this in the budget recurring every year,” Welch said. “It’s a community partnership that people understand.”
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