Voters Decide on Future of Penny for Pinellas
By COREY MAPP, Writer, TB Reporter
Voters from across Pinellas will decide whether to renew the Penny for Pinellas 1 percent sales tax for another 10 years.
PINELLAS COUNTY – Voters will decide this month whether to renew the Penny for Pinellas sales tax for another 10 years.
The Penny is a 1 percent sales tax that funds long-term infrastructure projects in Pinellas County and its 24 cities.
The 1 percent tax has been in effect since 1990. Running in 10-year cycles, this year’s vote would impose the tax for 2020-2030.
Florida’s current sales tax rate is 6 percent, with the Penny added, Pinellas county has a sales tax rate of 7 percent, or 7 cents for every dollar spent.
The Penny for 2020-2030 is estimated to bring in $2 billion in revenue, with about $225 million going toward projects that both the county and city utilizes including jails and court houses, $915 million to just the county, and $853 million to be divided among the 24 cities.
“County wide, the Penny pays about 75 percent of infrastructure. Without that money, we would be forced to raise the millage [tax] rate,” said County Commissioner Janet Long. “It generates the equivalent of 2.4 mills of property tax.”
The county property tax rate is $5.37 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable property value. That means the owner of a home valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay about $537 in county property taxes per year. Without the Penny, that number would be about $747 per year.
One third of the total amount comes from tourists and the tax is not collected on groceries or medications. The tax only applies to the first $5,000 of a purchase. The funds the Penny brings in are divided between the county and 24 cities within it using a formula based on population.
Focusing on capital projects, the Penny aims to improve things such as water quality, roads, bridges, public safety facilities, parks, and community centers.
Some examples of what the Penny has contributed to in the past are the Bayside Bridge, Keystone Road, and the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail.
“The Penny has been very good for Seminole. The Penny will continue to be good for the citizens of Seminole going forward,” Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters said. “The city of Seminole has followed the intent of the Penny through the decades, and that has been for use with infrastructure projects. We will continue to focus on infrastructure when hopefully renewed.”
If renewed, St. Pete would use the penny to support storm drainage, flood prevention, completing roadways with bicycle and pedestrian safety, among other projects. Largo would invest in are new vehicles for public safety staff, and $3.5 million for roadways improvements.
“I can tell you that more than 2,000 acres of parks and preserves are in place today because of the Penny,” Long said.
Early voting ends Sunday (Nov. 5). The election is Nov. 7.
To find out what other cities plan to use the Penny for, or for more information, go to pinellascounty.org.
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