Pinellas County Archives - Page 6 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

Condo sales solid in Tampa Bay real estate market

Condo sales throughout the Tampa Bay area are bouncing back after their disastrous crash a decade ago.

The Tampa Bay Times reported in Pinellas and Pasco counties, more condos were sold in April than in any month since 2012, as far back as the Florida Realtors organization tracks sales. Hillsborough had its second best month in April, topped only by a bumper showing last June.

In Hillsborough, which had less than a three-month supply of condos in April, the desire to be near a revitalized downtown Tampa is driving up prices.

A penthouse in Harbour Island’s Grandview sold last month for $1.975 million, the most of any Hillsborough condo in the last six months and among the highest prices paid since the peak of the boom in 2005.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Metropolitan Planning Organization, Pinellas Planning Council are now Forward Pinellas

forward_pinellas_logo_colorConsider it a marriage of convenience, of sorts.

In 2014, a special act of the Florida Legislature combined the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization and Pinellas Planning Council into a single entity with a 13-member governing board of elected officials representing the different communities in Pinellas County.

After extensive consideration about its mission, role and responsibilities, the organization has been officially rebranded as Forward Pinellas.

As a transportation planning organization, Forward Pinellas’ identity conveys motion, with a focus on helping residents and businesses get to and from the places they need to go. As a land use planning organization, the name acknowledges the need for redevelopment to support a dynamic and resilient economy. The logo itself represents the complex and changing environment of land, water and transportation that connects everyone in the county.

“The organization we’ve created lays a solid foundation for Pinellas County to move forward with better transportation and sensible redevelopment,” said St. Petersburg City Councilmember Jim Kennedy, chair of Forward Pinellas. “That begins with our emphasis on a vision for how the U.S. 19 corridor functions in the northern and southern parts of our county, enhancing beach community access, and preparing a master plan for connectivity in the Gateway/mid-County area.”

The new branding of the combined local planning organizations in Pinellas County reflects a streamlining of processes and an elimination of redundancies, while also conveying the county’s vision of moving forward.

“We’re using this branding to emphasize our role in guiding how Pinellas County and its communities grow, adapt and plan for the future,” said Whit Blanton, executive director of Forward Pinellas. “We need to be smart, fiscally responsible and focused on addressing the unique needs of the county and Tampa Bay to make transportation and our economy work for everyone.”

Forward Pinellas is on Twitter as @ForwardPinellas and is also active on other social media platforms. Its next board meeting, scheduled June 8, will include the unveiling of the new website, forwardpinellas.org. Full website functionality will follow later in June. Forward Pinellas plans a broad community engagement effort to build awareness and involve the public in decision making for countywide transportation and redevelopment.

Pinellas property values jump nearly 8 percent

Property values across Pinellas County went up by about 7.7 percent, according to Property Appraiser Pam Dubov.

The figures are estimates; final numbers are due July 1. The estimates are necessary because they are the numbers that county and city officials use when starting to build their budgets.

Estimates are necessary because they are the numbers that county and city officials use when starting to build their budgets.

While the County saw a 7.7 percent increase overall in the taxable value of real property, some Pinellas cities weren’t so lucky. Others did better.

On the high end, South Pasadena saw a 10.5 percent increase in the value of taxable real property. Indian Rocks Beach did just about as well with a 10.1 percent increase in taxable real property value.

At the other end of the scale, Belleair saw an increase of 5.7 percent; Safety Harbor, 5.95 percent.

Clearwater, Largo and Pinellas Park got a boost from annexations.

Clearwater had an 8.09 percent increase in the value of taxable real property. That boost includes annexations that brought in property with a total taxable value of about $3.8 million.

Largo also annexed property with a total taxable value of about $3.9 million, helping that city to a 9.3 percent increase in the taxable value of all real property.

Pinellas Park annexed lands with a total taxable value of about $2.2 million. The overall increase in the value of taxable land there was about 7.1 percent.

County commissioners want Rays to know: ‘We want you to stay in Pinellas’

The news that Tampa Bay Rays officials have discussed nine potential sites for a new ballfield with Tampa and Hillsborough officials was not welcome information among Pinellas commissioners.

It’s time, they said, to make sure the Rays know the county wants them to stay whether it’s in St. Petersburg or elsewhere in Pinellas.

It’s time to talk about other sites in Pinellas, Commissioner Ken Welch said Thursday.

“Those conversations need to be happening now,” he said.

They appointed Welch to represent them on Baseball Forever, a campaign designed to convince the Rays that their current location at Tropicana Field is the best location in Tampa Bay for Major League Baseball. That would involve re-visioning and redeveloping the property. And commissioners agreed County Administrator Mark Woodard and commission chair Charlie Justice should reach out to the Rays.

They discussed inviting Rays officials to make a presentation to them about the team’s wishes. Commissioner Dave Eggers liked that idea: “I think the symbolism is important here to show how much the Rays mean to Pinellas County.”

Pinellas commissioners to county administrator: Find money for school nurses

Much of Thursday’s discussion about Pinellas County’s budget centered on school nurses – or the lack of them in a proposed spending list for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

“The school nurses are not in the recommendations,” Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard told commissioners.

It was an unpopular omission from the $15.7 million list.

“We’re either going to pay now or later,” Commissioner Karen Seel said. “I’d rather grow healthy children.”

Seel was the driving force behind a proposal to shift some of the money that is raised for the health department so it could fund a dental program for $179,000 and seven LPNs for $264,089. The dental program was on the list. The nurses were not.

The nurses were destined for the seven neediest schools in the Pinellas County School District: Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose, all in St. Petersburg; and Sandy Lane and High Point in Clearwater. All are elementaries. All have a high percentage of poor children.

“These are the schools with the highest poverty level in the county, the greatest need,” school board chair Peggy O’Shea said. “These kids, for a lot of different reasons, don’t have access to health care.”

Pinellas schools receive no funding to pay for school nurses, Superintendent Michael Grego said. While the district does have health clinics at four high schools and some nurses, it cannot afford to pay for them.

“This is a major community issue,” Grego said.

Commissioner Janet Long agreed, saying, “If we don’t look after anybody, we need to take care of our children. They are the future.”

Woodard said he heard their message and would try to find funds for at least some of the nurses.

O’Shea said she hoped the county would be able to fund all seven.

Pinellas tax rate expected to stay the same

Pinellas property owners can expect their county property tax rate to remain the same in the coming fiscal year, according to County Administrator Mark Woodard.

The current tax rate is about $5.28 per thousand dollars of assessed, taxable property value. A homeowner with a house worth $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay about $528 in county property taxes.

Woodard made the prediction Thursday morning during a budget workshop with county commission members. He also unveiled a list totaling $15.7 million in recommended new expenditures for the 2016-17 budget that goes into effect Oct. 1.

“This is not final,” Woodard told commissioners. “This is my seeking your input.”

The budget will not become final until the commission gives its final approval in September. Before then, Woodard said, commissioners will have several opportunities to weigh in and change the overall proposal.

But Thursday’s workshop concentrated on new expenditures that would be added to the overall county budget, which stands at about $2.06 billion for the current fiscal year. Various agencies had requested about $24.1 million in additional funds.

“We don’t have the resources to fund all of those needs and priorities,” Woodard said.

Instead, he recommended funding about $15.7 million of them. These were 30 items he described as constitution an “incremental restoration of services (eliminated in the recent recession) within the resources that are available. This is a balancing act.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was the big winner. About 60 percent of the funding when to items he had requested, including $1.3 million for helicopter maintenance, $2.5 million for training costs, and $5 million for new cars.

The $5 million for the new cars exceeded Gualtieri’s request of $1.8 million for vehicles. But Woodard explained the $1.8 million was a recurring payment for leased vehicles. The $5 million would be earmarked to purchase new vehicles. Once the sheriff’s fleet has converted to owned vehicles, the $1.8 million recurring cost would disappear.

Also on the list: about $1.6 million for services to the homeless, $100,000 for the Lealman Community Redevelopment Agency, $253,000 for recreational programming in the unincorporated area, $155,200 to the Supervisor of Elections for the presidential general election.

Public hearing on proposed Pinellas charter changes went without comment

The first public hearing to gather public comment on proposed changes to the Pinellas County charter went swimmingly.

No one commented. And only one member of the public even showed up.

It took a bit less than 15 minutes to call the meeting of the Charter Review Commission to order, read the six proposed referenda, ask for comment and adjourn.

The CRC has one more public hearing scheduled before a final vote on their report. Then, the report and any proposed changes go to the Pinellas County Commission, then to the November ballot for voters’ approval.

The charter acts as Pinellas’ constitution, laying out the framework for the way county government operates. A charter review commission is appointed every eight years to look over the document and decide if changes should be made. Those changes are subject to voters’ approval.

The CRC is proposing six changes:

  1. Clean up charter language that is outdated or obsolete because of Constitutional law issues or passage of time.
  2. Require county commissioners to appoint CRC members who live in the commissioner’s district.
  3. Give the county’s constitutional officers – sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and clerk of the court – say in the hiring, firing and evaluation of the county attorney.
  4. Create a redistricting board that would be convened after each census to provide recommendations on changing election boundaries to be in compliance with changes in the population.
  5. Reduce the number of signatures citizens must get on petitions to place a proposed charter amendment on the ballot and extend the time the citizen has to gather those signatures.
  6. Evaluate the estimated costs or savings of proposed changes to the charter.

The final CRC public hearing on the proposed amendments is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 15 at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

Pinellas voter information cards in the mail starting today

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections began mailing new voter information cards to all 623,000 registered Pinellas County voters today.

“Voters should carefully review the information on their new voter information cards – including name, address and political party affiliation – to make sure it is correct,” Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said. “If voters need to update any information, please call (727) 464-VOTE to make changes before the Aug. 1 deadline to register to vote and change political party affiliation for the primary election.”

The mailing will take place over four weeks, with the last cards scheduled to be mailed June 27. Voters who do not receive voter information cards by July 5, or have misplaced their card, can call (727) 464-VOTE to request a replacement card. Voter information cards are not required to vote and are for informational purposes only.

Clark was required to redraw precinct lines because of recent special redistricting. Pinellas County is now represented by two congressional districts. Additionally, boundaries for all three state senate districts changed and state senate districts were assigned new district numbers:

  • Congressional Districts 12, 13 (formerly districts 12, 13, 14)
  • State Senate Districts 16, 19, 24 (formerly districts 19, 20, 22)

Clark wanted to make sure the redistricting caused as few changes as possible for voters. She did this by minimizing the number of precinct and polling place changes. Efforts to maintain continuity resulted in:

  • 89 percent of precincts having the same boundaries as before;
  • 6 percent of voters are assigned to the same polling place as before;
  • the addition of two precincts, increasing the total from 299 to 301.

Voters can go to votepinellas.com/electionready to make sure their information is correct.

Draft changes to Pinellas charter ready to go before public

After almost a year’s work, members of a volunteer group tasked with proposing changes to Pinellas’ charter are ready to take their suggestions to the public.

They’ve scheduled two hearings to give residents a chance to comment. The hearings are one of the last steps before the six proposed changes are put on the November ballot so voters can decide whether to adopt them. The county charter acts like a constitution, providing the framework under which Pinellas is governed.

The first hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the St. Petersburg City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N. The second is planned for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. June 15 at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

The proposed amendments:

  1. Under current law, a citizen-based drive to put a charter amendment on the ballot requires that petitions be signed by 10 percent of the registered voters in Pinellas. The petitioners have 180 days to gather the signatures. The suggested change would require only 8 percent of the voters to sign the petitions and would give the petitioners more time — 240 days — to gather the signatures.
  2. The second proposal would require the Pinellas County auditor to evaluate the potential financial cost to voters of any charter change. That evaluation would be placed on the ballot after the summary of the proposal. This would be a new addition to the charter. There is no such requirement currently.
  3. This proposal would also add a new section to the charter. The proposal would create a county redistricting board that would meet every 10 years after the census to recommend the ways new district lines for county commissioners should be drawn. The recommendations would go to the county commission.
  4. Under the current charter, the county attorney is hired, evaluated and fired by the seven county commissioners. Under the proposal, the county attorney would be hired, fired and evaluated by the seven county commissioners and the Pinellas County sheriff, tax collector, clerk of court, property appraiser and supervisor of elections.
  5. The current charter provides that nine members of the charter review commission should be appointed by the Pinellas County Commission from the county at large. The proposal would require that seven of those would have to live in the commissioner’s district. The other two would be selected at large from the county.
  6. This amendment would “clean up” or take out any provisions that have been found to be unconstitutional, remove references to organizations that no longer exist and revise references to make them consistent with Florida statutes.

Republican Pinellas Tax Collector candidate to hold fundraiser Wednesday

Charles Thomas has scheduled a fundraiser for his bid to be Pinellas County’s next tax collector.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Marina Cantina, 45 Causeway Blvd., Clearwater Beach. If you want to go, you need to RSVP by contacting Charles@VoteCharlesThomas.com or (727) 201-5456.

The list of hosts for the event reads like a Who’s Who of the Pinellas Republican Party. The hosts include state Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes; state Reps. Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls; former state Rep. Kim Berfield; Sheriff Bob Gualtieri; county Commissioner John Morroni; State Attorney Bernie McCabe; Public Defender Bob Dillinger; and Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters.

Thus far, Thomas is the only one in the race for tax collector. According to the most recent filing, he’s garnered $30,000 for his war chest.

Thomas, who has served as Pinellas’ chief deputy tax collector since 2000, announced his candidacy in April after his boss, Diane Nelson, announced her retirement. Before working for Pinellas, he was the program manager for Gordon-Darby, Inc. where he was responsible for the operation of 11 locations that generated $14 million in annual revenue. He was also responsible for maintaining the company’s $5 million annual budget and served as the organizations’ government relations’ liaison.

Thomas is married, has two children and one grandchild.

May_25_Invite-charles thomas