Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Proposed Hillsborough County budget includes raises for some workers, no tax increase

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials had hoped they had seen the bottom of the economic collapse.

But property values have continued to fall and the county will have at least one more year of lower property tax receipts.

County Administrator Mike Merrill will present a $3 billion budget to commissioners next week for fiscal 2013 that factors in another $14 million in declining property taxes. Since 2007, property taxes collected by the county have fallen about $300 million.

This time Merrill thinks the county really has hit bottom.

"I really finally have that sense," he said. "I think most of the foreclosures will have been flushed through the system. Commercial is starting to recover. Jobs are coming back."

Merrill's budget proposal is balanced without a tax rate increase, thanks in large part to tapping what he calls "one-time money." The state each year requires county governments to approve a budget that plans for spending no more than 95 percent of anticipated tax revenue.

What's left over at the end of the year is so-called one-time money that can be used to address needs the following year. Ongoing workers compensation claims that are lower than projected and other savings achieved through the year also will be used to fill the gap.

This is the second year of a two-year budgeting cycle used by the county. Traditionally in the second year, few changes are made from the prior year. But Merrill's budget does have a few differences.

He proposes giving all employees a one-year, $1,200 cost-of-living adjustment to partly make up for six consecutive years of pay freezes and reductions. The county's two major unions, which represents firefighters and many blue-collar workers, are demanding more and have declared an impasse in annual contract negotiations.

Merrill would not get the raise himself, warding off criticism leveled at his predecessor Pat Bean. She was caught giving raises to top employees and herself without alerting commissioners.

He also presents the option of asking voters to approve a slight property tax increase that would be dedicated to parks and recreational centers. It would function similarly to the county's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

The county would take on debt to pay for a number of building projects, using proceeds from the tax to pay it over 10 years.

Included on the list of projects is $27.5 million to preserve the Friendship Trail Bridge, a former span of the Gandy Bridge, and converting it into an over-the-water linear park.

Merrill said he has heard enough positive feedback from commissioners to bring forward the new tax proposal. But it was unclear late Friday if the enthusiasm will wane once the proposal gets publicized. The 0.15-mill tax would cost the owner of a house valued at $165,000 about $25 a year. "It is something that gives the voters an option to give either a thumbs-up or thumbs-down," Merrill said.

He said the county has all summer to get public feedback, not having to approve a referendum for the November ballot until September.

Short of that, Merrill suggests other options for raising money for delayed parks projects. They range from laying claim to some $9 million in sales tax money set aside for Tampa Bay Buccaneers training center that the team has not tapped. Another $9 million could be taken from money earmarked to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit that has not been spent.

Bill Varian can be reached at

Proposed Hillsborough County budget includes raises for some workers, no tax increase 06/22/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 11:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. World's plastic waste could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep


    WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than 2 miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

    Plastic trash is compacted into bales ready for further processing at the waste processing dump on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
  2. Sen. John McCain's type of cancer did not slow Tampa woman


    TAMPA —When 35-year-old Beth Caldwell heard about Sen. John McCain's brain tumor this week, she hoped he would stay positive.

    That's what helped her, she said.

    Throughout her battle with brain cancer, Beth Caldwell, 35, keeps her sons Gavin, 10, and Triston, 7, on her mind.
  3. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.
  4. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  5. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]