The great tax debate in Pinellas County

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman may further adjust his efforts to secure Pinellas "bed tax" dollars for a new major league baseball stadium. 

Earlier this year Kriseman, who sits on the county's Tourism Development Council, opposed raising the bed tax from 5-percent to 6-percent. 

The TDC recommended tax hike anyway and earlier this week the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners approved raising the tax. Before that vote the mayor told commissioners he now supports increasing the bed tax without committing the extra revenue.  

"We all know what's sitting out there potentially on the horizon," Kriseman said Tuesday, "To lock it in today to a specific use I think would be a mistake." 

County commissioners agreed, and additional revenues will be set aside until there is a spending plan.

Friday Kriseman told FOX 13 he is also abandoning his suggestion that there be caps on the percentages of bed tax revenues that can be spent on marketing or on capital projects such as baseball stadiums. 

Where to draw that line sparked contentious debate between the tourism industry, which favors marketing, and municipal leaders who favor "brick and mortar" projects. 

Kriseman said he will suggest spending plan guidelines rather than firm caps. The subject is expected to come up at the TDC's October meeting.

There are a lot of dollars at stake:  Revenues next year could top $50 million with the new 6-percent bed tax and approximately 2,000 new hotel rooms under construction or development. Up to $20 million of that could be used to finance a new baseball stadium. 

However there are other entities interested in the same revenue stream, including the city of Dunedin which hopes to build a new spring training facility for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which plans to expand its facilities. 

St. Petersburg might also ask for bed tax dollars to expand Al Lang stadium for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Any request for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays is at least two or three years away.

St. Petersburg's current city council rejected an agreement Kriseman proposed to let the franchise look at possible stadium sites in Hillsborough County. The mayor is expected to make the same request after this year's city elections. 

At Tuesday's meeting county commissioner Ken Welch told Kriseman, "I'm hopeful your next council works with you and lets the Rays do what they need to do... we met with the Rays back in 2013 and urged them to move forward." 

In the past Rays officials have said any site search will take more than a year to complete.

The use agreement on Tropicana Field requires permission from the city to start that process.