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Hillsborough commission again approves token tax rate cut

TAMPA — Using the savings from a property tax rate cut approved Wednesday by Hillsborough County commissioners, the typical homeowner would be lucky to score a pack of Ramen noodles — on sale.

Commissioners once again took that symbolic step in tentatively approving a slight reduction to the tax rate for next year so they can say they've lowered the rate for 21 years in a row.

How slight? Less that one-fifth of a penny in assessments for every $1,000 of taxable value.

Democratic Commissioner Les Miller, as in each of his three years on the County Commission, was the lone no in a 6-1 vote during Wednesday's budget reconciliation meeting. He has essentially argued the savings are so small for individuals as to barely even qualify as symbolic. He offered no remarks, simply summoning budget chief Tom Fesler to the lectern to underscore that the savings add up to less than a dollar.

Officially, the county set the tax rate at $10.75 for every $1,000 of taxable assessed value for property in unincorporated areas. Based on the fraction of a penny shaved, the owner of a home valued at $165,000 who declares a $50,000 homestead exemption will save 18 cents if that home's value stays the same.

Commissioners began consistently lowering the tax rate in the early 1990s and commissioners elected since have been loath to abandon the gesture. As property values began falling in the mid-to-late 2000s, the rate cuts became smaller but have persisted. Because property values are generally rising again, the rate cut is so slight as to qualify as a tax increase as the state Legislature has defined it. That's because savings from the rate cut will not offset the rises in actual tax bills caused by higher property values.

So far, the county's budget, shaped in part by property taxes, includes the first raises for county employees in several years. Additionally, commissioners tentatively agreed to spend another nearly $20 million on roadway and stormwater maintenance that has been deferred in recent years.

They also plan to set aside an additional $700,000 to create programs for seniors that encourage healthy activities.

A public hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 12.

Hillsborough commission again approves token tax rate cut 07/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 1, 2013 12:03am]
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