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Public hearing set on ELYSA millage
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Screenshot by SUZETTE PORTER
East Lake Youth Sports Association president Rick Watson presents information to Pinellas County Commissioners during a May 13 work session about the need for a separate millage to fund youth sports.
CLEARWATER - East Lake Youth Sports Association president Rick Watson presented additional information to Pinellas County Commissioners during a May 13 work session about the need for a separate millage to fund youth sports.

Commissioners agreed to advertise a June 24 public hearing on the matter.

ELYSA first presented the notion of a separate millage, requesting a levy of 0.25 mils during an April 10 meeting. Commissioners requested more information about how the money would be spent. Watson presented information May 13 on ELYSA’s operational budget, capital budget, fees, liability and insurance, as well as plans for governance via the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency.

Currently, ELYSA brings in $189,520 in revenue through its baseball, football and soccer programs. Expenses, including mowing, repairs, maintenance, turf care, utilities, insurance and other needs, takes every penny.

If a millage were levied, an estimated $550,000 in additional revenue would be available to not only pay for expenses, but also allow the organization to hire a new administrative employee. Volunteers provide staffing now. Money would be leftover to pay for needed projects, such as replacement of lighting and irrigation systems, installation of restroom facilities, repairs of parking lots and buildings and perhaps an addition of a lacrosse field.

Watson said lacrosse was one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

With an infusion of money from a dedicated millage, ELYSA could reduce its fees to be more competitive with surrounding organizations, Watson said. ELYSA also would implement a new non-resident fee, modeled after Palm Harbor’s fee structure.

ELYSA would report to PHCSA and would request a representative on that board, should the millage be approved.

Watson said about 500 people had signed a petition in support of the millage and more signatures were being collected. He said the majority of signatures were by East Lake residents.

Commissioner John Morroni said he had received six emails on the matter – three in support and three against. He suggested that ELYSA finish its petition drive in advance of the June 24 public hearing.

“I need to see the support,” Morroni said.

East Lake resident Roger Johnson spoke in opposition.

“This is a new tax, not an increase,” he said.

He said East Lake residents had been paying 0.4437 millage rate before the 0.5 mil levy was enacted for the library, which he supported. He suggested that the needs of ELYSA come from county grants, not a millage levy.

Commissioners discussed the possibility of holding a referendum, even though it is not required. The county has the authority to levy the millage without referendum, as it did with the library millage. Woodard said if commissioners wanted to add a referendum to the Nov. 4 ballot, the ballot language would need to be finalized by end of July.

Commissioner Chair Karen Seel cautioned that approving a millage for ELYSA could open the door for similar organizations in the unincorporated area to ask for the same.

Commissioner Norm Roche pointed out that the Pinellas County Library Cooperative had been set up to avoid a similar situation.

Commissioner Susan Latvala said not many communities had a large enough population to support a millage for youth sports. She said only Palm Harbor, East Lake and maybe Seminole could do it.

The commission touched on two past referendums in East Lake that failed to support a millage for recreation. Seel asked staff to provide the history of those votes to the commission.

“It’s a different community now,” Latvala said. “There’s lots more children.”
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