LARGO — The property tax rate for Largo residents likely won't increase next year.
City commissioners voted 6-0 on July 19 to set the maximum rate at 5.8082 mills, which is the maximum rate allowable with a supermajority vote of the board. The current rate is 5.58 mills.
The Pinellas County Property Appraiser will be mailing Truth in Millage notices to property owners Aug. 22.
The tax rate can’t go higher when the commission officially adopts the rate in September, but it can be lowered, which is what Vice Mayor Michael Smith said he plans to ask for.
He said he’d like to give citizens a “little break” by seeking a rate of 5.5 mills, which would still represent a 10.55% increase because of higher property values citywide.
Commissioners agreed to the higher rate on the notices to provide flexibility, but it appears likely they will move forward with staff's recommendation of maintaining the current rate of 5.58 mills.
That doesn’t mean homeowners shouldn’t expect higher bills, though.
Because of skyrocketing property values, maintaining the current rate of 5.58 mills, or $5.58 of tax per $1,000 of taxable value, would actually reflect a 12.16% increase.
For example, a resident with a homesteaded property valued at $154,767 would pay $585 in city taxes, a $26 increase over last year.
Thanks to the 13.1% spike in citywide property values now at $6.76 billion — the highest growth in more than a decade — maintaining the current rate would also generate an additional $4.1 million for the general fund, according to Will Payne, manager of the Office of Performance and Budget.
“That funding will help fund key priorities in the FY23 proposed budget, including investing in the recruitment and retention of staff who are the backbone of services we provide as well as move forward with major operating and capital investments that have seen significant cost increases in this period of extraordinary inflation,” he said.
While a vote on the proposed sports complex near Central Park may be generating the most buzz, city leaders say a different referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot is just as, if not more, important.
On July 19, commissioners voted 6-0 on second and final reading to ask voters to amend the city charter to exempt the commercial space in the City Hall Horizon West Bay property from certain lease restrictions.
Officials had hoped the new facility — a mix of municipal services and commercial property — would attract destination businesses such as restaurants and breweries. The problem is that the charter requires residents via referendum to approve any lease of city property if it’s more than five years.
City Manager Henry Schubert said typical commercial leases for such tenants are for at least 10 years, so those businesses would be unlikely to open up shop in the $80 million-plus Horizon.
The proposed charter amendment would give voters the option to exempt the 18,000 square feet of commercial space in Horizon West Bay, which the city expects to begin construction on in the fall
There will also be a third referendum question on the ballot for voters to consider.
Voters will be asked to give the city authority to renew an existing economic development program for an additional 10 years.
The incentive program allows the city to exempt new and expanding businesses within the city from certain property taxes.
The only firm to take the city up on the offer in the past 10 years, however, has been TD SYNNEX (formerly Tech Data), which capitalized on the incentive agreement in 2015.
Under the agreement, Tech Data, one of the world’s largest distributors of IT products and services, received a 10-year tax exemption on a planned $8 million expansion. In exchange, the firm expected to create approximately 70 new jobs at or above 115 percent of Pinellas County’s average wage.
Staff did say they would conduct outreach to businesses and community groups to educate them about the incentive.
Golf course study
Commissioners voted to approve spending $230,000 of Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue on a study to find out if the Pinecrest Golf Course at 1200 Eighth Ave. SW can be used as a stormwater retention site.
City commissioners in May approved an agreement with OB Golf Investment Group LLP to purchase the 26.7-acre property across the street from Taylor Park for $600,000.
The sale, however, is pending due diligence, which includes the feasibility study.
The goal, City Manager Henry Schubert said, is to create a stormwater retention area that could aid private construction in the area to the north.
The Pinecrest property could also serve as a passive park with similar features as Bayhead Park, the said.