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Budget plan raises tax rate in cities

Under the county administrator's proposal, unincorporated areas would be spared.

By EDIE GROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


Residents of unincorporated Pinellas County would be spared a tax increase while those living in cities would pay a bit more in county taxes under a budget proposal prepared by County Administrator Fred Marquis.

The $1.5-billion budget, 11 percent larger than this year's spending plan, includes $127-million in capital projects as well as a beefed-up Sheriff's Office and jail.

Under the proposal, the countywide tax rate, which is paid by every Pinellas property owner, would rise 25 cents in the coming year to $6.75 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Property owners in the unincorporated parts of the county also would pay an additional tax of $1.61 per $1,000 of taxable property value, a decrease of 25 cents over this year's tax.

"For anybody in the unincorporated area, it's a wash," said Marquis.

Residents in cities, however, will see a 3.9 percent increase.

"That's across-the-board for opening new parks, maintainance of new facilities and the Sheriff's Office having to add people for the extra section of the jail," Marquis said.

Marquis will present his budget request to county commissioners Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on the fifth floor of the County Courthouse, 315 Court St. in Clearwater.

The taxes break down like this for property owners:

If you live in unincorporated Pinellas, you would pay $8.36 per $1,000 of property value, the same as this year. If you have a $91,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption, you would pay $551.76 in county taxes.

Residents of a city would pay $6.75 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The owner of a $91,000 home with a homestead exemption would pay $445.50 in county taxes, an increase of $16.50 over this year.

Property values countywide have risen about 5 percent, adding to the increase in the overall tax bill paid by many residents and businesses. Tax bills are also affected by taxes levied by cities, fire districts, the School Board and other taxing units.

This year's budget proposal includes $160-million for the Sheriff's Office, just shy of the amount Sheriff Everett Rice asked for in meeting with commissioners May 23.

The money will pay for raises for employees, who are underpaid, according to a salary study completed this year; money to improve inmate health care; salaries for 52 new corrections officers to staff the jail addition; and salaries for 58 new employees for traffic enforcement, community policing, criminal investigations and school safety.

Capital improvements planned for the coming year run the gamut from wider roads to bigger parks.

Commissioners must send a tax rate to the Property Appraiser's Office by July 18, and residents should get tax notices in the mail in early August, Marquis said.

The county will hold public hearings at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 22 and 29 at the courthouse before approving the budget. The new budget year begins Oct. 1.

Figuring your taxes

The county is proposing a tax rate of $6.75 per $1,000 of taxable property value, plus another $1.61 per $1,000 of property value for residents in the unincorporated areas. To determine your property taxes, take the assessed value of your home and subtract the $25,000 homestead exemption, if you qualify. Divide that number by 1,000 and multiply the result by $6.75 if you live in a city or $8.36 if you live in unincorporated Pinellas.

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