Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

County budget proposal reflects improving economy

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill presented a budget to commissioners late Friday that for the first time in years shows an increase in tax revenue due to rising home values and consumer spending.

The $3.8 billion spending plan reflects increases in almost all of the county's major money sources, from property to sales taxes, though the gains are modest. They reflect a slow recovery from an economic downturn that has forced governments across the country to slash public jobs and eliminate or streamline services in the past five years.

As such, the budget includes few, if any, major new spending proposals. A highlight for government employees is that it will include their first raises since 2009, which Merrill had confirmed weeks ago.

"This budget signals a turning point," Merrill wrote in a message to county residents and commissioners. "For the first time since the world economy sank into a deep recession over four years ago, we are once again seeing positive growth."

His spending proposal assumes that the county's overall property tax rate stays the same at $10.76 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value. That means that someone with a $200,000 home in unincorporated Hillsborough who has a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $1,614 for the county portion of his property tax bill. School and other taxes add to that amount.

The budget is the first since commissioners crafted a strategic plan during the past year that seeks to put economic development and creating jobs at the top of their agenda. In addition to the pay raises and a state-imposed $7.2 million increase in county contributions toward employees' pensions, there is $1.7 million in seed money for creation of up to five redevelopment areas throughout the county.

These so-called tax-increment finance districts are being considered for the University of South Florida area, the West Shore business district, the Florida State Fairgrounds area, Palm River and the Big Bend area in southern Hillsborough. Such taxing districts, where gains in property taxes due to rising values are reinvested into the immediate area rather than getting spent in other parts of the county, take several years to raise substantial sums. The seed money would kick-start redevelopment efforts.

"It's to help establish the districts and to help get improvements implemented," said Bonnie Wise, chief financial administrator for the county.

If approved, the budget also would create 5 new positions in the county's economic development department at a cost of just more than $700,000 and set aside $500,000 for job training by the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance.

Commissioners, who had not seen the budget Friday, will recognize other items that they have previously approved. They include $2 million to promote the tech startup community and $6.5 million for roadwork that was an enticement to lure a Bass Pro Shops store in Brandon.

"It's the sort of budget I like," said county budget chief Tom Fesler. "It's kind of boring."

Beyond the Bass Pro expenditure, there are not many other big-ticket items because the county is not exactly flush with new money. Property taxes, for instance, are expected to bring in about $22 million more than they did in the current fiscal year, or about $569 million.

That's the main pot of money that covers much of the county's operating costs, from paying sheriff's deputies and firefighters to filling in potholes.

Merrill is asking for about $1.5 million to implement steps seeking to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized each year at the county's shelter, which commissioners had already endorsed. Smaller pools are set aside to improve areas that the county arguably has neglected, such as by increasing the frequency of mowing at parks and along roadways.

Finally, the administrator has set aside $5.4 million in recurring money and about $30 million for potential one-time expenses that he has not committed, allowing commissioners to decide whether he has overlooked something. Some of that money could go unspent, allowing the board instead to continue a nearly 20-year tradition of lowering the tax rate, even if it is by a barely noticeable amount.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3387.

County budget proposal reflects improving economy 05/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 11:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  2. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses

    Business

    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  3. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning

    Blogs

    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  4. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs

    (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]