By BRYAN GILMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously set the city property tax rate Thursday at $7.14 per $1,000 of taxable property value, the rate Mayor Rick Baker recommended.
A homeowner with a $100,000 home and a $25,000 homestead exemption will pay $535.50 in city taxes under the rate approved Thursday. The rate is 1 cent per $1,000 lower than last year but will still result in a higher tax bill for homeowners whose assessed property value has risen. The rate and the city budget passed with little discussion after a brief public hearing Thursday night.
The council tinkered only slightly with the $464-million budget, adding $30,000 in funding for the Arts Advisory Council and $72,000 to support the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, which will be managed for the next year by a new private, non-profit foundation. Had the city continued to run the center in house, it would have cost twice as much.
The budget decision came at the end of a daylong series of meetings at which the council talked about and acted on a variety of issues:
Earlier Thursday, the council approved the lease for the tennis center in the Bartlett Park neighborhood, causing those who had lobbied for the deal to leave with smiles on their faces.
The council's Budget, Finance and Taxation Subcommittee shot down an attempt to raise to $10,000 an extra homestead exemption for low-income senior citizens. Such an exemption lowers the portion of a home's value that is subject to property tax.
Last year, the council awarded those seniors an extra $5,000 exemption, but the city could raise that amount to $25,000 in accordance with a 1998 state constitutional amendment voters approved. Even with Thursday's subcommittee action, a council member could still raise the discussion before the full council.
The council learned that Baker and his staff have negotiated a deal that will allow the St. Petersburg Hurricane Offshore Classic power boat race to be held as scheduled Oct. 4-7 in Tampa Bay along the city's downtown waterfront. The head organizer, Michael Allweiss of American Power Boat Association Offshore Racing, had threatened to move the race unless the city made concessions to prevent his organization from losing money on the event. Baker agreed for the city to absorb $15,000 of the cost of city services for this year's event.
And he agreed to let organizers charge admission for prime viewing spots on the Pier's rooftop observation deck and on the back edge of the plaza. The rest of the Pier will remain open to the public.