CLEARWATER – Only two residents spoke at the final public hearing Sept. 17 for Pinellas County’s fiscal year 2014 budgets and millage rates.
Donna Davis spoke in favor of the millage rate increase for the general fund and she thanked commissioners on behalf of FAST (Faith in Action in Strength Together) for returning Penny for Pinellas funds the affordable housing land trust. David Ballard Jr. spoke against the implementation of a surface water management fee.
Commissioner Norm Roche made motions to lower the general fund millage rate and to make a change in the Capital Improvement Fund budget to approve $5 million in funding for affordable housing for one year instead of three. Both died due to a lack of a second – the same outcome as the first public hearing.
By law, the commission is required to vote on each millage rate and budget separately. Most of the votes were unanimous, except Roche voted no to increase the countywide millage to 5.2755 mills, and he voted no on the countywide budget. Commission Chair Ken Welch was absent. His father, Dr. David Welch, died Sept. 16.
Owners of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 receiving a $50,000 homestead exemption will see their tax bill for the general fund increase by $26.50. The higher millage rate is expected to bring in an additional $14.1 million in revenue for FY 2014. The budget includes a 3 percent pay raise for county employees – the first in five years.
Roche also voted no on the millage rate for the Pinellas County Public Library Cooperative of 0.500 mills, which is a 12.69 percent increase over the current rate. He also voted against the cooperative’s budget.
Commission Vice-chair Karen Seel thanked the budget staff and all county staff, as well as fellow commissioners for their work on the coming year’s budget.
“Congratulations everyone for making it through the process,” she said.