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Largo ranks stormwater as #1 priority for “Penny for Pinellas” spending

LARGO — With the vote to renew Penny for Pinellas on the horizon, city officials are starting to discuss which projects they would spend their portion of the tax revenue on.

The 1 percent countywide sales tax has raked in billions of dollars since it went into effect in 1990 that have gone toward funding dozens of projects, including Largo Central Park, the Highland Recreation Complex and the Largo Community Center. A preliminary wish list for the next funding cycle from 2020 to 2030 includes reconstruction of city buildings, road improvements and planning for better stormwater drainage.

The tax revenue is distributed to the county and cities based on population. The money can only be used for infrastructure improvements as well as land acquisition and improvements. The city projected it would receive about $105 million if the tax is approved next November, although the estimate is based on several variables that are still up in the air.

Commissioners discussed a list of 16 projects totaling more than $175 million at a recent workshop that were given scores using criteria for the city's capital improvement plan. Five projects were at the top of the list based on priority and because the total cost fit within the city's tax revenue projection.

The project with the highest score is for stormwater management. Pinellas County and several cities commissioned a study in 2012 to find ways to improve water quality and reduce flooding, said city engineer Jerald Woloszynski.

"Everything that falls from the sky is obviously picking up some sort of contamination along its way and eventually working its way out into our waterways," he said, pointing to the project's motto, "Only rain down the drain."