The proposed increase in the countywide millage rate on a home with a taxable value of $100,000 receiving a $50,000 homestead exemption costs an additional $26.50 in taxes. The millage rate increase is expected to generate an additional $14.1 million in revenue for FY 2014.
CLEARWATER – The public was mostly absent from the first hearing on Pinellas County’s fiscal year 2014 budget Sept. 5. Millage rates and budgets received tentative approval ahead of a final hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Donna Henry, a retired schoolteacher on a fixed income, protested the increase in the countywide millage rate from 5.0105 mills to 5.2755. She said inflation, rising food costs, “rising everything” was creating a “burden on a lot of people.” The resident of unincorporated Pinellas also objected to the new stormwater fee that added $266 to her property tax bill.
“I’m opposing such a large increase,” she said.
Shelby Harvey asked commissioners to “just say no to the millage increase.” She said the 3.4 percent increase in revenue from property values should be enough.
“Please just live on that as your budget – that’s plenty,” she said. “People in the private sector are not getting pay raises.”
Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala has recommended a 3 percent pay raise for county employees effective Oct. 1.
Harvey said many residents had gone many years without a pay raise. She also pointed out that many were now working part time jobs and received no benefits. She said due to the increase in property values and the millage rate, many were seeing big increases on the property tax bill.
“It is way too much in one year,” she said. “The economy has not rebounded.”
According to a graphic shown by LaSala, the tax increase from the proposed millage rate on a home with a taxable value of $100,000 receiving a $50,000 homestead exemption would be $26.50. The millage rate increase is expected to generate an additional $14.1 million in revenue for FY 2014.
Commissioner Norm Roche made a motion to reduce the general fund tax increase to 5.143 mills. The motion died from a lack of a second.
Roche also attempted to make a change in the Capital Improvement budget change the way money was being appropriated to the affordable housing land assembly program over the next three years. He wanted to approve the funding for one year instead of three to allow consideration of repurposing the funds toward razing of dilapidated buildings. That motion also did not receive a second.
By law, the commission is required to vote on each millage rate and budget separately. The vote was as follows.
- Approved 6-1 the tentative countywide millage of 5.2755 mills, which represents an 8.29 percent increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 4.8717, which is the amount needed to generate the same revenue as the previous year. Roche voted no.
- Approved 6-1 the tentative countywide budget of more than $1.649 billion, which includes $511 million for the general fund, $171 million for special revenue funds, $207 million for capital improvements, $193 million for internal services and nearly $567 million for enterprise funds. Roche voted no.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage rate of 0.622 mills for the Pinellas County Health Department, which represents a 2.98 percent increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.0604 mills. Roche pointed that the millage rate is a 0 percent change of the current year.
- Approved unanimously the tentative health department budget of $3.6 million.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage rate of 0.9158 mills for Emergency Medical Services, which represents a 3.07 percent increase over the rolled-back rate of 0.8885, or as Roche noted a 0 percent change.
- Approved unanimously the tentative budget for EMS of $113 million.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage rate for the Pinellas Planning Council of 0.0160 mills, which represents a 32.23 percent increase over the rolled-back rate of 0.0121 mills. Roche said the proposed rate was a 28 percent increase over the current year. The budget of $1.1 million also was approved.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage rate of 2.0857 mills for Municipal Services Taxing Unit, paid by residents living in unincorporated areas of the county. The rate, which is the same as the current year, represents a 2.55 percent increase from the rolled-back rate of 2.0339 mills.
- Approved unanimously the tentative MSTU budget of nearly $59 million.
- Approved 6-1 the tentative millage rate for the Pinellas County Public Library Cooperative of 0.500 mills, which represents an 8.73 percent decrease over the rolled-back rate of 0.548 mills. Roche, who voted no, pointed out that the rate is in reality a 12.69 percent increase over the current rate.
- Approved 6-1 the tentative budget for the library cooperative of nearly $4.4 million.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage rate of 0.500 mills for Palm Harbor Community Services District, which represents a 1.92 percent increase over the rolled-back rate of 0.4906 mills. The rate is the same as the current year. Unanimous approval also was given for the tentative budget of nearly $1.7 million.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage rate of 0.500 mills for the Feathersound Community Services District, which represents a 4.12 percent increase over the rolled-back rate of 0.4802 mills. The rate remains unchanged from the current year. The budget of $298,760 also was approved.
- Approved unanimously the tentative millage of 0.2500 for the East Lake Library Services District, which is a new taxing district requested by East Lake residents. Approval also was given for the tentative budget of $555,470.
Commissioners also unanimously approved tentative millage rates and budgets requested by 12 fire districts. Four of the 12 are changed from the current year. Residents in the Gandy Fire District have an increase of 1.6 percent and Safety Harbor Fire District’s millage rate is up 1.76 percent. The largest increase is for Pinellas Park Fire District with an increase of 27.4 percent. Thanks to a new contract for services, the millage rate in High Point Fire District is decreasing by 36.3 percent.
Commissioners approved advertising for the final public hearing on the budget. That hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 17, 6 p.m., in the fifth floor Assembly Room of the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater. For more information, visit www.pinellascounty.org/budget.