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Hillsborough County taxpayers get slim win in new budget

TAMPA — Twenty-five cents.

That's how much the owner of a homesteaded property worth $200,000 can expect to save on next year's tax bill. Hillsborough County commissioners slightly dropped the tax rate this week as part of their $2.95 billion spending plan for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

So what do taxpayers get next year, besides a little extra cash? More private contractors, more money set aside for businesses and more roadwork delays.

Here are some highlights:

Parks and recreation

After-school programs at 11 sites that suffered from low enrollment will be eliminated. But the county is starting a similar after-school program — Rec2Six, an offering for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade — at 18 community centers. After-school activities will also continue at 10 regional parks.

Families with children who attended the centers that no longer offer the after-school program can either attend one of the sites that does or contact the School Board's Hillsborough Out of School Times programs, the Redlands Christian Migrant Association or the YMCA.

The after-school programs will remain under county control, but public employees will be replaced by part-time contract workers.

Park maintenance will now be handled by private contractors, saving an estimated $3 million.

Roadwork

A number of long-awaited projects are on hold for at least another two years, including:

• $32.4 million for intersection upgrades (including $1.7 million for Gunn Highway/W Linebaugh Avenue; $2.2 million for N Himes Avenue/W Lambright Street; and $1.6 million for John Moore Road/Lumsden Road).

• $15.2 million for widening Linebaugh Avenue from two lanes to four. The money will mostly go for right-of-way acquisition between Rack Track Road and Countryway Boulevard.

• $11 million for widening a segment of Lutz-Lake Fern Road between the Suncoast Parkway and Dale Mabry Highway.

• $14.6 million to address recurring flooding problems throughout the county.

Economic development

Commissioners pumped nearly $6 million more into a fund aimed at job-creating initiatives, including small-business programs and business innovation funds.

Animal Services

Lost some funding, but employees have agreed to work rotating schedules to allow the shelter to open on Sundays. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sheriff's Office

Sheriff David Gee's employees will get a cash benefit to offset a new state requirement that government employees contribute 3 percent of their pay toward pension costs. The money is a partial restoration of a stipend payment they once received. Most other government employees are having to eat the pension payment.

There will be no layoffs, though roughly 200 positions that aren't "mission critical" will remain vacant, said Michele Hamilton, director of human resources.

County Attorney's Office

Eight positions cut, including three that were filled.

County employees

Just under 100 workers, most of them from the parks and recreation department, were looking for new jobs as of Friday. Their jobs were eliminated due to the privatization of certain services as well as department reorganizations.

Officials had originally calculated that twice as many workers would lose their jobs. Commissioners set aside $300,000 to help the laid-off workers find new jobs.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Hillsborough County taxpayers get slim win in new budget 09/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 24, 2011 9:47pm]

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