This is the first Post of a 20 Post series detailing the PSTA/Pinellas County Greenlight Interlocal Agreement.
These Posts will up at 5:00AM each weekday morning for the next 4 weeks.
The document is long and complex. The objective is to break the document into smaller pieces so you can actually read it and provide some commentary.
Comments both pro and con would be deeply appreciated.
Pinellas County Voters are being asked to approve a law (The GreenLight Plan) that would provide for an open ended 1% increase in the County sales tax. This Agreement will also go into effect if the the GreenLight Referendum is successful.
You can read my review of the actual law you will approve if you vote yes at Sales Tax (GreenLight) Ordinance Review.
The Ordinance that will become a law is deliberately written in vague and broad terms anticipating Interlocal Agreements with Pinellas County and most of the 24 jurisdictions (Cities) in the County.
The original plan was to formulate these Interlocal Agreements after the sales Tax Ordinance had become law, allowing for the most "flexibility" in determining how the sales tax proceeds would be obligated.
Due to pressure from opponents of the Greenlight plan and the Sales Tax Ordinance, the Suncoast Transit Authority and the Pinellas County Commission found it necessary to develop the Interlocal Agreement before the election to add some direction to how the revenue from the 1% sales tax will be handled and to attempt to add some clarity regarding the suspension of the current PSTA property tax.
The following document is a reproduction of the Pinellas County Interlocal Agreement with the Suncoast Transit Authority approved by the Pinellas County Commission.
The text of the Agreement appears in italics. My Comments appear in Bold regular text.
TO: The Honorable Chairman and Members of the Board of County Commissioners
FROM: James L. Bennett, County Attorney
SUBJECT: DATE: Recommendation to Approve the Transit Surtax Interlocal Agreement with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
DATE: June 3, 2014
RECOMMENDATION: I RECOMMEND THAT THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS APPROVE THE ATTACHED TRANSIT SURTAX INTERLOCAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN PINELLAS COUNTY AND THE PINELLAS SUNCOAST TRANSIT AUTHORITY.
DISCUSSION: The Board adopted Ordinance No. 13-34 on December 10, 2013, which levies the Charter County and Regional Transportation Surtax ("Surtax") at the rate of one percent ( 1%) subject to referendum approval. That referendum is scheduled for November 4, 2014. The intent of the Board, as expressed both in Resolution No. 13-19 and Ordinance No. 13-34, in placing the referendum question on the ballet is to provide a funding source for countywide transportation projects, specifically those outlined in the Greenlight Pinellas Plan.
The Greenlight Pinellas Plan ("Plan") was developed by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority ("PSTA"), a countywide transportation authority created by special act of the Legislature. The Plan calls for the development, construction, and operation of public transit benefitting Pinellas County, including an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours, and local passenger rail and regional connections. The Plan calls for funding of this transit system with proceeds collected through the Surtax.
The interlocal agreement before the Board for action is between the County and PSTA, and provides for distribution of Surtax proceeds received by the County from the Department of Revenue to the PSTA. In addition to distributing the funds, the interlocal:
• Provides that the County can withhold distribution of the Surtax proceeds and/or reduce the Surtax levy if PSTA exercises its ad valorem taxing authority
This appears to set up the control for preventing PSTA to continue or re-establish the current property tax levy, but later we will see that while the County can "withhold" sales tax revenues, those revenues by law may only be used for transportation, so sooner or later they would flow to PSTA since they appear to be dedicated to the GreenLight plan.
There is basically nothing to prevent PSTA from exercising its ad valorem taxing authority in the future.
• Allows PSTA to pledge the Surtax proceeds to secure any debt or other obligations incurred by PSTA for its Green light Plan
This is the really big one. Here the interlocal Agreement provides for PSTA to pledge the sales tax revenue "secure ANY debt or Obligation by PSTA for its GreenLight Plan. Later in this document you will see where those pledges can extend for up to 90 years.
• Provides for the reduction and/or termination of the Surtax upon the occurrence of certain defined events
• Requires County consent in order for PSTA to undertake certain defined activities
Attempt to keep PSTA tied to the County and the County Board of Commissioners.
• Provides reimbursement to the County for costs incurred in support of the Greenlight Plan
In this section, the County assures they will get a piece of the $130 million dollar annual sales tax for undefined "costs" incurred in support of the plan.
• Sets forth a schedule of critical milestones for Greenlight Plan
County staff has collaborated with PSTA staff over the last several months to develop the inter local attached to this memo. It is recommended that the Board approve the interlocal, authorize the Chair to sign, and transmit the inter local to the PSTA for its approval.
Both the County Board of Commissioners and the PSTA Board of Directors have approved this Agreement
Transmittal for approval
GREENLIGHT PINELLAS TRANSIT SURTAX INTERLOCAL AGREEMENT
THIS GREENLIGHT PINELLAS TRANSIT SURTAX INTERLOCAL AGREEMENT ("Agreement") is made and entered into this day of June 2014, by and between PINELLAS COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, hereinafter referred to as the "County," and the PINELLAS SUNCOAST TRANSIT AUTHORITY, an independent special district created by Chapter 2000-424, Laws of Florida, as amended, and a transportation authority for purposes of Section 212.055(1), Florida Statutes, hereinafter referred to as "PSTA."
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Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks.