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Week in Review

By Compiled by Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000

BUDGET WOULD CUT TAX RATE: Hillsborough County unveiled a new budget Wednesday that promises a small reduction in the county property tax rate.

The owner of a $100,000 house, for instance, would see a $7.50 drop in the bill if the assessed value is unchanged, said Eric Johnson, the county's budget director.

But rising property values mean many homeowners could pay more in property taxes despite the drop in the rate.

Hillsborough County's overall spending plan proposed for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 totals $2.27-billion.

The proposed budget adds 22 new sheriff's deputies and 19 bailiffs, jail guards and other sheriff's personnel. It provides more funds for water projects and environmental protection of land. It provides merit raises for the county's 9,200 employees that will average 3.5 percent.

LIBRARY INTERNET FILTERS: Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms on Wednesday proposed requiring all public library computers to filter out pornographic Web sites.

The library system has 60 public computers in its branches. All but four, in the main library, already have filters.

But Storms is still concerned about the four unfiltered computers, and the board voted 4-3 to have staff work on a law to extend filtering software to all library computers.

Library board members, accompanied by Director Joe Stines and representatives of the ACLU, were not happy about that.

"We've done everything humanly possible to protect youth," said Stines. "We feel like what we've got now is working."

FANS' SEATS LIMITED: At least 400 of the best seats in Raymond James Stadium were never made available to Tampa Bay Buccaneer season ticket holders, even though the Bucs promised them priority seating in the team's new digs, according to a Thursday court filing.

Team officials said Thursday that they tried to accommodate fans when they moved in 1998 into the new stadium, which has about 8,000 fewer seats. National Football League teams must keep a certain number of prime seats available for TV networks, they said, and teams routinely reserve some for families of players and staff.

Four frustrated fans sued the Bucs last year, and said they had been dealt with unfairly in the seat selection process. They want seats comparable to the ones they had in the old stadium.

At issue in Thursday's filing by their lawyer are 4,992 seats in eight sections that border the 50-yard line on both sides of the stadium.

After reviewing documents turned over by the Bucs last week, the fans' attorney estimates at least 400 of those seats were withheld from fans when seat assignments were being made.

FATAL WRECK SEPARATES TWINS: A 25-year-old Tampa Palms man died in fiery wreck, despite his twin brother's efforts to save him.

About 3 a.m. on June 3, Ed Woodward was driving Gene Woodward and two friends home from an evening out, Ed said. They had been celebrating Gene's completion of his first year of medical school at the University of South Florida.

They were driving north on Interstate 275 in a friend's Ford Bronco toward their apartment in Tampa Palms.

A 1995 Ford driven by Jermaine Bostick, 20, rammed the Bronco from behind just after they passed Busch Boulevard. The Bronco flipped, rolled several times and landed on its roof. Bostick and his 17-year-old passenger, a cousin, left the Ford where it had struck the guardrail and ran, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Ed and his two friends extricated themselves from the Bronco but soon realized Gene was still inside.

"I saw his shoe," Ed said. "He was stuck between one of the seats and the roof of the truck. He wasn't conscious. I tried to pull the seat lever so it would lean forward, but it wouldn't move. I was tugging on his foot. Then I saw the gas trail light up."

Four passers-by who had stopped grabbed Ed and pulled him away from the Bronco. He saw it explode and burn with his brother inside it.

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