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Pinellas to consider sales tax referendum | News

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Pinellas to consider sales tax referendum
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- It was full house at PSTA headquarters in St. Pete as people gave the PSTA Board their two cents when it comes to the possible one cent they could be forking over in the future in the form of a possible sales tax.

"Today it makes sense to move forward. Don't stop the process in its tracks before it even gets started," urged one citizen.

While there was support of the proposed sales tax, which could eventually fund light rail, there was opposition.

"By moving it forward, you are supporting raising our taxes," said a concerned citizen.

See Also: Proposed route for Pinellas light rail released

The PSTA Board unanimously decided to ask the Pinellas County Commission for a November 4, 2014 date for a possible sales tax referendum to help fund the struggling transportation system.

PSTA says it has not established how much the proposed sales tax would be... it could range from a half penny to a full penny depending on public input as the planning process moves along.

Right now, PSTA relies on ad valorem taxes to fund its bank rolls. Reserves from better financial times have helped pull the system through the last few years, but it's facing a huge budget shortfall.

Without a new, more stable funding source, PSTA says it faces drastic cuts to bus service and layoffs.

Already, buses are running on full at some points during the day and some areas of the county are under served.

"A large part of our county is not served by PSTA and yet those citizens pay the PSTA taxes, so we've got to have a really robust bus system, including rapid transit to move people around," said PSTA Board member Susan Latvala who also serves on the Pinellas County Commission.

If a referendum makes it to the ballot and voters approve increasing their sales tax which currently stands at seven percent, PSTA says the revenue source will help nearly double the current bus system.

This could include more routes and more frequent routes.

Over time, as money allows, light rail could also factor in as part of the plan which has yet to be finalized.

PSTA says Wednesday's vote was simply to ask for the date for a possible referendum. While there is a plan, it is not finalized. How they'll move forward depends on citizen input through 2014.

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