The City of St. Petersburg is once again experiencing a phony “shortfall” in funds and already the Tampa Bay Times is calling for more taxes to cover it. The City revealed that it is $3 million over budget during negotiations to renew Unionize worker contracts recently. In 2011, the City spent more than it ever had in the past: $482 million, compared to just $330 million in 2001. It appears the taxpayers are yet again in for another round of tax hikes that will further drain the local economy and put money in the hands of a government that wastes it or hands it to well connected special interests and businesses. St. Petersburg City Hall seems to have an insatiable appetite for the people’s money and an inability to restrain their spending.
Here is a partial list of the taxes and tax and revenue hikes from St. Petersburg over the last several years.
- Last year the St. Petersburg City Council voted to raise property taxes $10 million.
- Since 2008, the City has collected an extra $3-4 million per year in “Franchise” taxes through Progress Energy and TECO People’s Gas; since 2003 franchise taxes have gone up $10 million per year.
- The city collects a 10% tax on all utility bills including electricity, phones, fuel oil, propane, natural gas.
- The city also receives taxes on telephone and cable services totaling nearly $13 million in 2012.
- The city has collected $3-10 million per year extra in combined Utility and CST taxes since 2003.
- Water resource revenues up $3-8 million per year since 2008 (except in 2010)
- Sanitation revenue up about $ 3 million per year since 2006.
When taxes are compared to 2001, a more reliable yardstick of reasonable tax collections, the annual increase in tax revenues is even more alarming. For instance, property tax revenues in 2001 were $58 million annually and barely went above $55 million per year for all of the 90’s. They peaked at $103 million in 2007 and have never returned to a more appropriate level. Despite the excess revenue collections, the city raised property taxes $10 million last year to about $79 million to cover spending they have failed to bring under control. The city now finds that it is $3 million over budget barely half way through the 2013 fiscal year.
While the City claims they have a budget ‘shortfall’ the fact is the city is spending more money than it should and simply expects to raise more taxes, fees and fines to pay for its out of control spending. The Sun beam Times has detailed phony shortfalls in the past. This figure shows the increase of property tax collections over the last 10 years compared to the steady property tax collections in the prior ten years.