SEMINOLE — City officials came out strongly April 27 against possible action by Pinellas County government to nearly double the revenue from the county gasoline sales tax.
City Manager Ann Toney-Deal announced the potential increase of up to an additional 5 cents as she presented council members with an amendment to the current revenue-sharing agreement between the county and its 24 municipalities.
One council member called the proposal, which has not been formally announced, a “blatant tax increase” designed to shift the county’s revenue needs to the cities.
The revised interlocal agreement would keep the current sharing percentage at 60% for the county, with the remaining 40% split with the cities.
Deal said a 5-cent increase is written into the new pact. However, she said, County Administrator Barry Burton told her the actual amount of increase could be anywhere from 1 to 5 cents. The County Commission has not yet received the amendment, Burton said.
Some 51% of the population of the incorporated communities in the county would have to sign on to the agreement for it to come into force.
Over the past 10 years, Seminole has received an average of $39,000 for each penny of the gas tax each year, Deal said. Should the county decide to raise the tax another 5 cents, Seminole would receive about $195,000 each year.
The current agreement does not expire until 2027. Revenue from the tax is used for public works, such as roads and sidewalks.
Vice Mayor Thom Barnhorn said that a 5-cent rise in the gas tax would cost a two-car family another $200 a year. However, drivers of electric vehicles would not pay the tax, “disproportionately penalizing” drivers of fossil fuel vehicles.
Council member Chris Burke said the county may get $190 million from the federal government under the America Cares Plan, “but can’t afford to put down sidewalks.”
He termed the proposed amendment a “blatant tax swap,” with the county forcing Seminole to pay for county sidewalks.
“We managed to get through the whole pandemic on our budget doing what we needed to do on our cities and our sidewalks,” he added, “and if the county can’t do that that’s on the county and the county administration.”
Mayor Leslie Waters also expressed concern about any increase, noting that Seminole has not raised taxes in about 14 years. “If it’s that important to the county, maybe they can reassess their priorities and reassess their budget to come up with the money,” she said.
The council authorized Toney-Deal to write to the County Commission expressing its concerns over the possible increase.
Council member Trish Springer said she would ask the executive board of the Suncoast League of Cities to call an emergency meeting over the proposed increase.
In other news
In a workshop, the council authorized staff to begin negotiations for a development agreement over a 4.5-acre site at 9329 Park Blvd. The developer, Gulf Coast Consulting, proposes to build 34 two-story townhomes at the north end of Conrad Mobile Home Park.
No mobile homes in the park are expected to be displaced, the developer said.