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Karl Nurse wants to swap Penny money for TIF dollars to free up cash for buses and affordable housing

Council member Karl Nurse, in his last year in office, has been a dynamo of ideas so far in 2017.

Zoning revamps. Affordable housing plans. Energy efficiency. Nurse has been busy.

His latest? Take $21 million in next round of Penny for Pinellas projects slated for St. Petersburg and swap them out into the city’s Downtown Tax Increment Finance district to free up dollars for affordable housing and transit.

Nurse sent council members his proposal on Tuesday in advance of tomorrow’s Committee of the Whole on Penny for Pinellas funding. Voters will  decide to authorize the next round of Penny fund in November.

He would take $15 million in sewall maintenance pegged for the central and south yacht basins along the downtown waterfront and $6 million earmarked for a downtown parking garage and shift those projects to the TIF.

With $21 million in Penny money freed up, Nurse wants to work with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on a plan where the city would buy buses to increase service on corridors like 4th Street, where shorter waits could persuade people who don’t ride PSTA buses to do so.

“The rationale for the transit spending is that PSTA is at their millage cap and so only limited additional funding is likely.  St. Pete could leverage city funding of capital needs such as  buses, charging stations, shelters, etc with PSTA funding for significant service expansion north-south to provide good service between neighborhoods and jobs.  This funding option might encourage other cities to use a similar method to improve service,”  Nurse wrote in his memo.

The rest of the Penny money could be spent on affordable housing, he said.

“Affordable housing is a critical long term need for our community.   Unfortunately, most of our funding is dependent upon the commitment of the Federal and State governments.   We have seen this waiver over the years.  In addition, local monies could be spent more efficiently because it would be more flexible without the federal and state regulations and restrictions,” Nurse wrote.

Nurse’s plan wouldn’t interfere with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposal to dedicate $14 million in TIF money for the Pier, he said, as the Penny money he’s targeting would begin to flow in 2020.

It might cut into revenue considered for redeveloping Tropicana Field,  but with $8,000,000 in city money and another $5.2 in county funds being currently generated, there is more than enough cash to go around, he wrote.

Of course, Nurse’s plans depend on voters approving another round of Penny money in November.

To that end, the city released an interactive map tool Wednesday at that would show Penny projects completed or underway since the current round began in 2010.

If voters approve on Nov. 7, a third round of Penny for Pinellas would be available from 2020 to 2030.

The 1 percent sales tax is applied to the first $5,000 of non-exempt items in Pinellas County. Voters first approved the tax in 1989. They reauthorized it in 1997 and 2007.

Nurse's idea and the administration's wish list will be discussed at a council Committee of the Whole, Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 4:32pm]


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