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Pinellas County Commission examines implementing 22 new fees

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The Pinellas County Commission reviewed and discussed a total of 22 county-wide fee proposals for their 2016 fiscal year budget Tuesday, June 9, during a two-hour budget information session. The proposed changes are projected to increase Pinellas County’s yearly revenue by over $70,000.

New Fees

The county’s Animal Services division, part of the county’s General Fund, saw three new fees proposed. A $25 minimum medical therapy fee for pet owners whose animals were brought into shelters was proposed to recover shelter costs associated with medical therapy services, like needed medication for sheltered animals. A $10 fee for late license payments was proposed to offset additional compliance measure costs. And a market value fee for heartworm and flea treatment was proposed to provide a six-month supply of preventive medicine for new pet owners’ animals while a veterinarian was selected. In total, the new animals services fees are expected to bring in $34,480 this fiscal year.

The county’s Parks and Conservation department, part of the county’s General Fund, also saw three new fee proposals. They’re all optional fees for six-month passes to Fort De Soto Park, Sand Key Park and Fred Howard Park. A $45 option for regular residents, and $30 options for senior citizens and military personnel, respectively, will allow access into all three parks. Previously, only annual passes to these parks have been available, and at a rate of $75 for regular citizens, and $55 for seniors and military members. The new fees are expected to generate $8,000 for the county this fiscal year.

A new fee that charges the Contract Community Board of Adjustment $83 per hour during its variance advisory process was also proposed for the county’s FY16 budget. The fee is presumed to boost the county’s Building Services Fund by $500 this fiscal year.

Changes to Existing Fees

The county’s Animal Services division saw two more fee proposals, this time for hikes to two of the department’s existing fees. A $50 fee to euthanize and cremate a pet was proposed, as well as a $30 fee for cremation alone. The rates were hiked to offset associated costs. These fees were $40 and $20, respectively, during FY15. They’re expected to generate $8,210 in revenue for the county this fiscal year, all of which will go into the General Fund.

Two $60 fee increase proposals were also added to the county’s Real Estate Management FY16 budget. The proposals call for hikes to the department’s petition to vacate fee and its release of property interest fee, bringing each fee up from $690 to $750. Both proposed fee hikes were added to counterbalance the application and service costs associated with the services. An addition of $11,250 to the county’s FY16 General Fund is expected to come from these proposed fee hikes.

Pinellas County’s Emergency Medical Services and Fire Administration department saw two minor fee adjustment proposals as well. A family membership fee for the Sunstar Ambulance Membership Program went up from $92.98 to $95.43, while a single membership for the same service went up from $59.77 to $61.35. Neither proposed fee hike exceeds the Medical Consumer Price Index increase of 2.64 percent. $13,500 is expected to be generated during FY16 due to these two proposed fee increases, all of which will go into the county’s Emergency Medical Service Fund.

The county’s Building Services department saw one of its existing fees get proposed for a decrease. The county’s shed building permit fee, for a frame built on site — shell only — was preposed for a reduction of $100, bringing it down from $300 to $200. The proposed decrease reflects the reduction of inspections needed to build an on-site frame, which went from five to three. The financial impact of this move is expected to remain the same as it was before the proposed decrease, $1,200 throughout FY16, which will all go into the county’s Building Services Fund.

Current Fees to be Deleted

The Real Estate Management division of Pinellas County’s access and use permits, which includes a trail access permit, a landscape permit, a monitoring well permit, and a permit for an inter-department coordination and walk-through, were all proposed to be dropped. In total, all the permits amount to just under $400. A proposal to drop after-the-fact application fees was also included in the FY16 budget. However, the fees will only be dropped by the Real Estate Management division, as the Public Works department has been collecting these fees.

The county’s Building Services department also saw a proposal to get rid of appeal fees associated with building, electrical, plumbing, gas, swimming pool and mechanical materials and codes. Like the proposed deleted Real Estate Management division fees, these Building Services fees are being collected by a separate division, in this instance the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

In total, these new fee proposals are expected to generate approximately $61,940 in increased revenue for Pinellas County’s FY16 General Fund, and $12,800 for other funds.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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