Pier funding will “take funds from the general fund for Pinellas County” and St. Pete, says Ford
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and challenger Kathleen Ford tangled over paying for the Lens, the proposed pier replacement, at a debate last week. Foster said the money was use-it-or-lose-it, while Ford said the plan takes money from the city’s general funds.
“If we use (Tax Increment Financing) funding, that’s going to take funds from the general fund for Pinellas County, as it will take funds from the general fund for the city of St. Pete,” Ford said.
We decided to look into Ford’s comments. (We’ll look at Foster’s in a separate fact-check.)
Let’s go back to 1969, when the Florida Legislature passed the Community Redevelopment Act. The intent was to allow a city and a county to target a specific geographic area — say, a downtown — for improvements. The law allows local officials to create a Community Redevelopment Area, so that a portion of property taxes collected in the area can be used for major development projects there.
In 1981, the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County set up such an area with the goal of paying for projects downtown. Each time the property taxes within the area rise above the 1981 level, that additional money goes into an improvement fund, usually called TIF, which stands for tax increment financing.