LARGO – Prepare to hear, over the next several months, a lot of selling and persuading to continue the Penny for Pinellas tax, the popular name for the Local Option Sales Tax.
Voters will be asked to approve an extension of that tax next March when the county takes it before the voters.
This nugget of news came out of the presentation Tuesday night to the Largo City Commission of the administration’s Capital Improvements Program.
After Kim Adams gave an overview of the money in/money out picture, Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert outlined some of the bigger projects that are planned in the six year CIP, which takes it through 2012.
Many of the projects, Schubert pointed out, are predicated on the extension of the “Penny” tax. “We take an optimistic view and think it will be extended,” Schubert said.
Is there a fall-back position in case the Penny for Pinellas is not extended? Commissioner Gay Gentry asked. Schubert said that for those key items like replacing fire equipment, etc., plans had been made.
The Penny for Pinellas tax ends by law February 1, 2010.
First approved for a 10-year span, 1990-2000, the tax was renewed for a second run.
The tax adds one penny to the Florida sales tax of 6 percent and those funds go to the county and then are distributed among the county and the cities on a formulaic basis.
Belleair Bluffs residents also got a piece of news in the presentation as given by Schubert. In the works is a “joint fire station” with Belleair Bluffs that “would also serve Largo.”
As some Bluffs residents warned a couple years ago when Belleair Bluffs got into bed with Largo to adminster its own fire department, the “camel’s nose under the tent” process is now clearly seen.
There has been talk in Belleair Bluffs about building a new station but the idea that funding it would be included in Largo’s CIP budget will probably come as news to Belleair Bluffs elected officials.
Also the idea that such a station “would also serve Largo” is a new concept in that such a formulation of words seems to indicate that the station would be an adjunct to Largo’s fire fighting system.
Of course, all fire departments lend mutual aid and, in effect, serve jurisdictions outside their own boundaries, but now it appears that, in a creeping way, Belleair Bluffs’ fire department is going to be subsumed into Largo.
In discussion with commission members, Adams revealed that the city manager, Steve Stanton, wants the city’s reserves to be 15 percent; that is, in the $15 million range.
Adams pegged this to the “Katrina” model which seems to have become the standard for a major catastrophe. A large fund balance is necessary to fend off any unusual events like a crippling blizzard, tornado, earthquake – all of which are as likely as a hurricane in these parts, given the history of hurricanes around here.
Adams gave an ABC lesson in the necessity of an emergency fund balance for a “rainy day” to Commissioner Rodney Woods, a neophyte on the board, who seemed bewildered by the concept.
Adams, financial guru for the city, gave a sure handed briefing on the city’s revenue expectations and possible expenditures.
In a city swirling with the dust and dirt of cronyism, nepotism and sneaky politics, the Adams presentation was a refreshing interlude.
The danger words “tax increase” came up as well. Discussed was 1.5 mills which made Mayor Pat “Shaky” Gerard tongue tied.
Speculation was over whether the tax increase will be necessary to build up reserves or will come about as a result of revenue shortfalls.
Right now, the predication of the basic budget in Largo for 2007-07 is for a tax rate of 5 mills – that is, $50 on every $1,000 of assessed value.
More will be heard on this as the budget season progresses.
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