The first vote for the $1.5-billion budget passed without dissent from county commissioners.
By MICHAEL SANDLER
Published August 27, 2003
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County commissioners gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to the 2004 county budget.
The public hearing was over in less than an hour without any serious opposition from the audience.
Commissioners voted 7-0 in favor of the budget.
A second and final public hearing was set for Sept. 9.
The budget takes effect Oct. 1.
County Administrator Steve Spratt has asked commissioners for $1.562-billion for the fiscal year that begins in October.
That's a 1.1 percent increase from last year, but because the value of Pinellas property has increased, it won't require a tax rate increase.
This comes one year after Spratt persuaded them to raise the property tax rate for unincorporated residents by 26 percent.
If approved, the countywide property tax rate of about $6.80 per $1,000 of taxable property value will remain the same.
Unincorporated residents, who pay an additional tax, will not see a rise in that rate of about $2.36 per $1,000.
Cities charge their own property tax rate for their residents.
That means a person owning a $125,000 home in unincorporated Pinellas County, after subtracting a $25,000 homestead exemption, would still pay about $916 in county property taxes.
People who live in one of Pinellas County's 24 municipalities are subject to additional taxes.
All property owners pay school and other taxes, too, and some areas have additional taxes for libraries and fire departments.
Commissioners say the county's largest reorganization effort in almost 20 years helped keep the budget tight.
Spratt eliminated about $3-million in spending and 52 jobs as part of that effort.
The budget includes new money for indigent health costs, including about $3-million to help the county's uninsured residents and $640,000 to pay Bayflite for transporting trauma victims who cannot afford the emergency flights.
It also calls for adding four code enforcement officers and $6.2-million to cover raises for sheriff's deputies.