Greenlight Pinellas proponents have been seeking to fool Pinellas residents by selling a phony “Tax swap” to voters. The Greenlight Plan would set property tax collected by PSTA to “zero”, until such time as they wanted the money back. While the PSTA would not collect $32 million in property taxes, it would collect $148 million in annual sales tax, including from over 500,000 new taxpayers who currently don’t pay a dime to the PSTA. So the Greenlight tax “swap” is clearly phony. But there is another factor to consider: all the taxes going up in the County as a whole and in nearly every of the 24 cities in Pinellas County this year. The $32 million PSTA property tax elimination would be overwhelmed not only by the $148 million sales tax hike, but by a minimum of an additional $115 million in taxes found so far for Pinellas and the three largest cities in the county! The total tax impact if the first full year of Greenlight sales tax collections started next year would be $263 million.
Citizens with newspapers have likely seen nearly full page ads from multiple cities, the county and the local school board advertising hikes in property taxes. Property values are going up again and the local governments are riding the wave to take more money from property owners and place it into the government coffers. This behavior is similar to that of the 2001-2007 period when local governments rode the artificial property value bubble and ultimately faced a property tax revolt complete with mediocre amendments to the state constitution to stop it. Many may remember Charlie Crist saying property taxes would “drop like a rock” – didn’t really happen. In addition, cities and the county are raising utility rates and other fees. The Sunbeam Times has calculated the total revenue hikes for the County, School Board and the three largest cities in Pinellas (St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo). Counting only these, out of 24 municipalities in the County, the additional tax and fee hit to Pinellas residents is $115 million.
The fee and property tax hikes of analyzed governments are shown below. This does not count additional monies from other governments and those fees and other revenue hikes that are often hidden in government budgets. It also does not include any increased interest costs paid by taxpayers on bonds issued by cities.
|Governments Analyzed||Fee and other taxes Total Hike||Property Tax Hike||Total Tax hike|