This Post continues a series where we look at The Sales Tax Ordinance, Ordinance 13- 34, and compare it to what is being said by the sales tax supporters.
Here is a link to the actual Ordinance (Law) that you are being asked to approve in the sales Tax Referendum: Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance.
(c) The County shall enter into the Inter local Agreement with PST A for the distribution and use of the proceeds of the Surtax as provided in subsection 4(b) herein. Any Surtax proceeds deposited in the Transportation System Surtax Trust Fund shall be remitted to the PST A in accordance with the Interlocal Agreement, and shall be used for the purposes authorized in subsection 4(b) herein, including the payment of the principal and interest on bonds or other obligations or indebtedness, or refinancing such bonds or other obligations, issued or incurred for such transit improvements, as authorized by the Acts and this Ordinance.
In this Sub Section the Ordinance REQUIRES that all of the sales tax funds received be remitted to PSTA as provided for vaguely in the proceeding section and further lays the ground work for a bond issue based on the Ordinance. This sub section essentially stops the County from withholding funds from PSTA as a punitive measure should PSTA go out of control. Note that there is no reporting or accounting provision applied via this Ordinance on PSTA to account for any of the funds.
There is no provision for withholding funds should the PSTA continue to receive Property tax Revenue.
The recently approved Interlocal Agreement approved between PSTA and the County sets up what looks like a provision to withhold Sales Tax funds should PSTA reinstate a property tax. Unfortunately should PSTA reinstate the Property tax, Pinellas County may with hold the sales tax funds from PSTA but the Ordinance requires that the funds be used for transportation so sooner or later the funds would most likely have to remitted to PSTA.
(d) The issuance of all bonds or other obligations or indebtedness pledging the Surtax proceeds shall be subject to the prior approval of the Board, as provided in and pursuant to an interlocal agreement with the agency receiving Surtax proceeds.
This Sub Section sets up the bonding mechanism but carefully omits which Board will approve the Bonds leaving that to be defined in the interlocal agreement. The current PSTA/County Interlocal Agreement allows the financing under the Greenlight plan to be in place for an initial 50 years with two 20 year renewals. That's a total of 90 years Pinellas County residents could be paying this additional sales tax.
Additional interlocal agreements will be "worked out" between the PSTA Board and the County Commission, only problem is there are several County Commission members on the PSTA Board along with a host of other elected officials who may just benefit from the funds and/or bonds being approved. See the PSTA Board at this link PSTA Board of Directors.
Always remember, these are AGREEMENTS not laws. They can be changed at any time with no required Referendum.
It's all a bit like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.