PENNY FOR PINELLAS ANYONE?
Some of you may remember that the voters of Pinellas County a few years ago voted in favor of keeping the special penny sales tax which the State Legislature has allowed counties to collect for specific purposes, many of which deal with infrastructure. Late in the campaign leading up to the day of voting, I along with others began to raise serious questions about the wisdom of voting for the continuation for several reasons:
1. The county had serious other needs, like affordable housing (allowed for in the state plan but recommended to be funded at, to my thinking, a pittance of the revenues to be derived), services for the elderly, children, etc. which were not allowed for and could not be included.
2. Projecting even growth and development needs ten years out required a “crystal ball” of incredible acuity and accuracy.
3. Contractors, particularly road contractors, were more the principal beneficiaries than the people of the county.
I remember having an uneasy feeling at the time that the bottom just might fall out of the economy. I knew from my own Church demographics that people were leaving residency in the county and fewer were moving in. I just had an uneasy feeling that those millions, almost totaling a billion dollars over a decade could have been directed to better things in the future.
Look at what is happening in Tallahassee, in Pinellas county and in our cities and towns and tell me that those funds, with a change in law, could now be put to much better use in the service of our children, our low income, our homeless, our vulnerable elderly, our schools, our community. But, it is too late. The county is committed by the will of the voters and I accept that. I just hope that before the State Legislature renews this special sales tax exemption, they consider opening it up for other uses more related to the human needs of all and limits the term of engagement to something which is better able to be accurately foreseen.