Today's Letters: Hillsborough purchase is cause for celebration
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published April 9, 2007
School land deal criticized March 31, story
In this story about the Hillsborough County school district's purchase of property in the Dover area, the reporter overlooked the most important facts, while focusing on anything that might cast a shadow. The story left misimpressions that I'm happy to clarify.
The school district was able to buy 100 acres at a fair price to build three much-needed schools on the same campus in eastern Hillsborough County, a growing area. The land is in an ideal location, central to the attendance areas for three high schools that need immediate relief. It is near Interstate 4 and Highway 92, and there is ready access to the site. The purchase is cause for celebration.
Your reporter's focus on a less expensive parcel that we did not buy betrayed a lack of understanding of the complexities associated with acquiring land for school sites. The other parcel has no road access and railroad tracks traverse the land. The other site was less expensive, but inadequate.
Also, your focus on the seller of one of the parcels was disingenuous. We were aware that someone might question our plans to buy from a former School Board member. But the prospect of buying land in a prime location from a willing seller outweighed other considerations. We were open about the seller's identity and announced it at the public meeting in October when the property was approved for purchase.
Your snide assertion that "the school district is ensuring a generous inheritance for his children" was insulting. Owners of property in that area can expect a sizeable profit when they sell - whether the buyer is a developer or the school district.
It's a shame the reporter didn't mention that the Plant City Commission enthusiastically supports the project, nor did she quote any of the parents in the Plant City and Dover areas who are thrilled that we will have a tri-school campus for the community. That's the real story.
Jennifer Faliero, Hillsborough County School Board member, Valrico
Looking for tax trouble
Several changes in our tax structure have been proposed by the Times and many of its readers. Most of these would do little, if anything, for the residents of Florida.
Many have proposed a huge increase in the sales tax. This would have a negative effect on our No. 1 industry, tourism, and would be a burden on those with lower incomes. Also, make no mistake about it, increasing the sales tax now would only make it easier for politicians to increase it again in just a few years.
One reader joined the Times in advocating a state income tax. This, too, is a bad idea. Take a look at our federal income tax and ask yourself if you want to go through another tax form like the 1040 every year, on top of the federal form. Like the federal system, every politico's pet project would become part of the tax code.
The real estate tax is still the simplest and fairest for everyone, if handled properly. California's Proposition 13 capped the tax rate at 1 percent of the assessed value of the property, and assessed value increases were capped at 2 percent per year. This was and still is a reasonable rate and a fair way of determining the assessed value for everyone. Taxes on rental property can be passed on to the renter and won't grow to be so large as they will under Florida's current system.
Any other type of change will only create new avenues of revenue for the politicians and will be disastrous for the rest of us.
Larry Fox, Largo
Baker exploring alternatives to house property tax plans March 30
Cap spending first
While many in St. Petersburg struggle to pay their escalating tax bills, Mayor Rick Baker and other elected officials continue to sabotage legitimate legislative efforts for meaningful reform in Tallahassee and at home. They also continue to threaten citizens with rhetoric that "essential services" will be cut if revenue is lowered.
I lived in St. Petersburg in 2001 and as best as I can recall we had police, firefighters, parks, roads and even libraries when collections were half the current levels. Distortions and threats serve no one well.
Mayor Baker goes on to propose that cutting assessed market values to 70 percent would have a substantial impact. Since most homes are currently assessed at 80 to 85 percent of value and many pay less due to caps, this proposal is likely to help few and cut budgets little.
I believe there are substantial cutbacks mentioned that most taxpayers would be willing to accept in exchange for lower budgets. We could start by asking citizens for their input before we fund extravagant projects such as civic theaters and stadiums. User fees for airports, pools and piers could be increased to better reflect actual operating expenses. We could even consider consolidating many government functions throughout the county such as police, fire departments and administration .
As a recent poll shows, we are now a community divided by those who are paying for unlimited budgets and those who are not. Suspicion of new tax proposals is understood as they might lead to increased government growth, and this is why a cap on spending is imperative before any changes are made.
Richard Knipe, St. Petersburg
More toll roads possible with bill March 23, story
Since reading this story on leasing Florida's toll roads I have been waiting for an outpouring of outraged letters over this proposed bill in the Legislature. If there has been any response, I have missed it.
For what some think is a huge chunk of money from a private company or companies for a lease of 50 years, the operation and tolls for Florida's Suncoast, Pinellas Bayway, Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and the Florida Turnpike could be turned over (possibly even to a foreign company), and there would be no turning back.
The bill allows the tolls to increase at least every five years, but it also allows the companies to raise tolls beyond that at their discretion without limit! The company or companies have probably already been chosen.
If this happens it is certain that the money Florida gets for this would be gone in a short time and there would be nothing that could be reversed.
As Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach, commented, "We're mortgaging off our future so we have money today." What a tragedy!
Shirley Herbert, Inverness
Gov. Charlie Crist is right to want to clean out the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority. The stories of problems just don't seem to end.
The Expressway Authority has just one major project, the East-West Road, which would cut through one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in Tampa, the Cypress Creek ecosystem.
It is amazing to me that we would allow an agency with this many problems to oversee a project as problematic as this. The potential for damage to Cypress Creek and Tampa's drinking water is huge, and I can't see how this agency is prepared in any way to deal with this.
The East-West Road project should be halted and reconsidered before the damage is irreversible.
Bill Newton, executive director, Florida Consumer Action Network, Tampa
Alcohol law off target
Since I owned stores in Ohio back in the '70s and had been cited for a sale of beer to a minor, I have always wondered why there is never a fine or penalty for the underage person, only for the clerk and owner. When my business was cited, the clerk was the wife of a retired police officer. She had checked a false ID and she was sure he was old enough. It was a setup in which the liquor officers sent in someone to make a purchase. It would be against the law for someone to try and purchase beer if they were underage.
My employees were as careful as possible and were always concerned about this problem. It is a shame that the honest, hard-working employee and the owner are always found guilty and have to go to court and pay a penalty. Could the guilty buyer or the parents of the buyer be held responsible? If their children break other laws, the parents could be held responsible and may have to make restitution. The business owners would benefit if there was an insurance policy or a group of lawyers to defend them, as they are not always the guilty party.
Charles R. Evans, Dunedin
A way to save gas
As much as anyone else, I like getting mail six days a week - other countries aren't so lucky.
But America could save millions of gallons of gas if all those trucks were parked all day Saturday.
Jerry Fisher, Pinellas Park