Tax Increase on Beach

St. Pete Beach residents will pay higher taxes this coming year. The commission raised the millage, or tax, rate on property taxes to 3.2819 mils, .425 mils higher than the current tax rate.

Property owners will pay $328.19 per $100,000 of assessed taxable property value, an increase of $42.50 per $100,000 of assessed property value over last year’s tax rate. The increase will yield just over $830,000, needed to “fund our employee pension plans,” city manager Mike Bonfield told the commission.

“You guys are courageous, and I think you’re doing a good thing. If only our commissioners over the past 30 years would have raised it just a little bit, you guys wouldn’t be in the hot seat,” St. Pete Beach resident Rick Falkenstein told the commission.

“I would like to object to the huge increase,” Dr. Bill Pyle said. Dr. Pyle, president of the Silver Sands condominiums, told the commission he didn’t speak on behalf of Silver Sands. He further stated his objections, as best as this reporter could discern, to city spending money to defend the lawsuits against the city. Dr. Pyle, a frequent flier as a plaintiff in the lawsuits against the city, then railed against the city’s comprehensive plan.

Vice Mayor Marvin Shavlan suggested that instead of raising the tax rate, the city secure a loan it would use only if voters did not approve contracting with the Sheriff’s Office in November. If the voters opted to disband the city police, the city, Vice Mayor Shavlan said, would not accept the loan. He said that the city has a loan payment ending in the coming year and could continue making the payments to repay the new loan. He advocated raising taxes only $330,000 to ensure the city get enough money in reserves.

“I think it’s time for a reality check for all of us in this city,” Mayor Steve McFarlin told him, suggesting that Shavlan’s plan involved semantics. “Forget political, we need to make good business decisions here.”

“As far as I can tell, in the last six budget cycles, while the millage rate may have bounced up and down... the city hasn’t gotten any more revenue,” Commissioner Jim Parent said, pointing out that the city’s debt increased and the staff decreased. “I just cannot see adding to that debt.”

Commissioners Lorraine Huhn and Bev Garnett also spoke in favor of the tax increase instead of the Vice Mayor’s plan. Vice mayor Shavlan told the Gabber 85% of the people who contacted him supported a potential loan that the city may not need to use instead of raising taxes. He pointed out that the city could repay the loan early if the voters approved going with the Sheriff for law enforcement.

“I surrender,” the vice mayor said when the mayor called the vote. He voted in favor of the increase, telling the commission “I will go along with the majority.”