Pinellas commissioners approve final millage rates, budgets: Peters votes no – Tampa Bay Newspapers

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Commissioners held the final public hearing on fiscal year 2021 millage rates and budgets on Sept. 22. Due to an unexpected no vote from one commissioner, the process took a little longer than past years, as each millage rate and budget had to be approved separately.

By state law, a taxing authority, in this case the County Commission, can adopt its own tax levies and the levies for all of its dependent special taxing districts by one single unanimous vote. The same rule applies to the budgets.

However, Commissioner Kathleen Peters voted no to approve the first item on the list, thus triggering a requirement for a separate vote for all.

Peters had joined the rest of the commission in the unanimous approval of the tentative millage rates and budgets during the Sept. 10 public hearing. No changes were made between Sept. 10 and 22.

Millage rates remain the same as the current year, except for six fire districts, which have reduced rates. Officials have pointed out since the rates were first proposed that many property owners would have increased taxes due to higher property values. Commissioners first approved tentative millage rates on July 30 ahead of the deadline to inform the property appraiser so they could be included in the August mail-out of Truth in Millage Notices.

The millage rate is applied to a property’s taxable value to determine property tax due. One mill is $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. A 5 mill tax on $1,000 equals $5.

At the final public hearing, Peters said many of the county’s residents were unemployed and should not have to pay higher taxes.

No members of the public asked to speak at either of the public hearings.

Keeping the millage rates the same will bring in more money for the county and dependent taxing districts’ budgets due to the increase in property values. County Administrator Barry Burton said most of the increase to the county’s General Fund was allocated to reserves as staff had tried to budget for two years. The expectation is that fiscal year 2022 will provide budgeting challenges due to the effects of the pandemic.

Although millage rates remained the same, they are higher than the rolled-back rate, which is the rate needed to generate the same amount of revenue as the current year. While much of the money allocated for the general fund will be going into reserves, additional funds are needed to pay for increases in costs.

Special taxing districts, such as Palm Harbor, East Lake and Feather Sound, requested the millage rates and prepared their proposed budgets including the revenue increases. The same process was repeated with the fire districts, which set their own millage rates and budgets.

The county’s budget preparations also included the millage rates that had been proposed since July.

The following resolutions were approved by separate 6-1 votes with Peters casting the lone no vote on each, including the fire districts with decreased millage rates.

• Final county budget, which includes operating budgets, capital budgets, six-year capital program and schedule of user fees for FY 2021.

• General Fund millage rate of 5.2755 mills, the same as it has been since FY 2014, which represents a 5.71% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 4.9906.

• General Fund budget of $899,230,000.

• Health Department millage rate of 0.0835 mills, the same since FY 2018, which represents a 6.10% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.0787.

• Health Department budget of $9,035,750.

• Emergency Medical Services Authority millage rate of 0.9158 mills, which represents a 6.55% in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.8595.

• Emergency Medical Services budget of $184,997,860.

• Pinellas Planning Council millage rate of 0.0150 mills, which represents a 6.38% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.141.

• Pinellas Planning Council budget of $3,289,700.

• Unincorporated Area Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) millage rate of 2.0857 mills, the same since FY 2009, which represents a 4.67% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 1.9927.

• MSTU budget of $63,525,760.

• Public Library Services District MSTU millage rate of 0.50 mills, which represents a 4.65% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.4778.

• Public Library Services District MSTU budget of $6,474,500.

• Palm Harbor Community Services District millage rate of 0.50 mills, which represents a 6.09% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.4713.

• Palm Harbor Community Services District budget of $2,586,170.

• Feather Sound Community Services District millage rate of 0.70 mills, which represents a 4.74% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.6683.

• Feather Sound Community Services District budget of $271,540.

• East Lake Library Services District millage rate of 0.250 mills, which represents a 4.12% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.2401.

• East Lake Library Services District budget of $817,160.

• East Lake Recreation Services District millage rate of 0.250 mills, which represents a 4.12% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.2401.

• East Lake Recreation Services District budget of $816,820.

• Belleair Bluffs Fire Protection District millage rate of 1.6227 mills, which represents a 3.77% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 1.5637.

• Belleair Bluffs Fire Protection District budget of $1,782,140.

• Clearwater Fire Protection District millage rate of 2.7938 mills, which represents a 0.14% decrease in property taxes under the rolled-back rate of 2.7976.

• Clearwater Fire Protection District budget of $11,182,910.

• Dunedin Fire Protection District millage rate of 2.5215 mills, which represents a 0.47% decrease in property taxes under the rolled-back rate of 2.5333.

• Dunedin Fire Protection District budget of $2,335,280.

• Gandy Fire Protection District millage rate of 1.1512 mills, which represents a 0.22% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 1.1487.

• Gandy Fire Protection District budget of $347,950.

• High Point Fire Protection District millage rate of 2.67 mills, which represents a 6.48% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 2.5074.

• High Point Fire Protection District budget of $5,737,450.

• Largo Fire Protection District millage rate of 3.0833 mills, which represents a 1.17% decrease in property taxes under the rolled-back rate of 3.1198.

• Largo Fire Protection District budget of $6,960,390.

• Pinellas Park Fire Protection District millage rate of 3.1976 mills, which represents a 6.34% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 3.0070.

• Pinellas Park Fire Protection District budget of $1,431,260.

• Safety Harbor Fire Protection District millage rate of 2.4808 mills, which represents a 0.06% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 2.4794.

• Safety Harbor Fire Protection District budget of $646,470.

• Seminole Fire Protection District millage rate of 1.9581 mills, which represents a 5.96% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 1.8479.

• Seminole Fire Protection District budget of $11,540,210.

• South Pasadena Fire Protection District millage rate of 0.4203 mills, which represents a 0.05% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 0.4201.

• South Pasadena Fire Protection District budget of $689,370.

• Tarpon Springs Fire Protection District millage rate of 2.3745 mills, which represents a 4.25% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 2.2776.

• Tarpon Springs Fire Protection District budget of $914,970.

• Tierra Verde Fire Protection District millage rate of 1.9118 mills, which represents a 5.10% increase in property taxes over the rolled-back rate of 1.8191.

• Tierra Verde Fire Protection District budget of $2,768,760.

More information about the budget is available at http://www.pinellascounty.org/budget/default.htm.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.

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