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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
Re: County delays new tax break for seniors, Oct. 31 story.
While presidential candidates and advocates of all political parties were spending time in Pinellas County at meetings with our senior citizens, Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart said at a commission workshop, "As painful as it is to some people not to get this relief ... we have some serious problems to address next year."
Seniors older than 65 who have low incomes ($20,000 in gross adjusted income, not including tax-exempt interest, trust distributions and Social Security benefits) deserve and need an extra $25,000 homestead exemption on top of the one that most homeowners get.
Pinellas County Budget Director Mark Woodward estimated that a senior citizen who turned in a federal tax form to the county Property Appraiser's Office would save, based on this year's tax rate, $168.75.
In 1998 Floridians passed a constitutional amendment that said cities and counties can give up to $25,000 in an extra homestead exemption. In Pinellas County, 64 out of 100 voters voted for this amendment.
St. Petersburg has given an extra $5,000 exemption and St. Pete Beach an extra $10,000 starting in 2001. Where is the humanity in Pinellas County's decision not to pass the ordinance by Dec. 1, giving low-income seniors a tax break of about $168.75 on their November 2001 tax bill?
-- James Angelo Pappas, Tarpon Springs
Re: First day of school may come sooner, Oct. 29.
I have been reading about all the changes being made in the local school system. I am concerned. My son will be out of the system in 31/2 years, apparently just in time! My wife teaches at an elementary school. I was a school resource officer in high school for almost 10 years. I hear about the massive amount of paperwork that teachers must confront each year and how it takes them away from really teaching the students.
The Florida Writes and FCAT have our teachers pulling their hair out trying keep up. Now the idea is to start the school year earlier in August, on the 9th, so that more time can be devoted to preparing students for these tests. They come early in the year and affect the school report card rating (another thing for teachers and administrators to worry about).
Aren't we supposed to be educating our children and preparing them for life? Aren't the teachers supposed to be teaching them the basic skills to get better educations and jobs? Instead the school system is prepared to adjust its entire program to be able to spend more time preparing the students for testing. Enough!
We need to get away from Testucation and get back to education. Let the teachers teach. Get rid of the half-baked ideas and paperwork. Let them get back to basics and watch the grades soar!
-- Dave Krieger, Clearwater
We never seem to hear a lot about the good things our Pinellas Park city government does. Our heartfelt thanks to Mayor William Mischler, council members Ed Taylor, Pat Bailey, Rick Butler and Chuck Williams, and the planning and zoning board for going the extra mile to protect one of the city's last wetland and wildlife refuges from development.
-- Joan E. Bretherton, Pinellas Park