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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times covering Hillsborough County. He previously worked for PolitiFact in the Times Washington, D.C. bureau. Prior to joining the Times, he covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3433


The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. Salvation Army declines Hillsborough County request to delay end of probation services

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The Salvation Army is holding firm with its plan to stop providing misdemeanor probation services in Hillsborough County on Sept. 30 — despite pleas from county officials to stay on longer.

    County commissioners have not settled on a new provider and they likely won't before Aug. 19. To get a new provider up and running by Oct. 1 would give whoever is tapped for the job a tight launch window....

  2. Hillsborough property tax rate won't go up in 2016

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners voted Thursday to leave the property tax rate unchanged for 2016.

    Tampa residents will pay a countywide millage rate of 5.7960, or $5.79 for every $1,000 in property value. The millage rate for unincorporated Hillsborough County will be 10.7547, the same as it was in 2015.

    Even without a rate change, Hillsborough expects to bring in more revenue next year, thanks to rising property values and a growing tax base. That means that even without a rate hike, property owners whose home values have risen will see a tax increase....

  3. Hillsborough County will hold onto BP settlement money for now

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Soon after Hillsborough County was awarded its share of the BP oil spill settlement, the jockeying over how to spend the $28.5 million began.

    It ended Thursday, as county commissioners voted unanimously not to spend a cent of the settlement money for at least a year.

    "We don't even have the money yet," Commissioner Ken Hagan said. "The ink wasn't even dry on the settlement and different areas were suggesting how to spend it."...

    Crews work to clean up from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that washed ashore at Pensacola Beach in June 2010.
  4. Hillsborough County could charge developers more for sprawl to encourage redevelopment from within

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County wants to entice developers into building up existing communities and urban hubs instead of building farther out.

    Doing so means updating an antiquated tax known as impact fees, a sum paid by developers at the completion of a project. As it stands, the county actually charges less for new developments, even though that kind of growth costs the county more in support roads and infrastructure....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner favors a change in “mobility fee” options, with some ties to the Go Hillsborough program. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times (2013)] 
  5. Hillsborough asks Salvation Army to extend probation services while it seeks replacement

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County needs the Salvation Army to keep providing misdemeanor probation services beyond Sept. 30 — the date the nonprofit said long ago that it planned to exit the criminal justice business here.

    County commissioners have yet to settle on the Salvation Army's replacement to monitor Hillsborough's low-level offenders. They won't make a decision until at least mid August, when they're expected to choose between Sentinel Offender Services and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office....

  6. New MOSI leader hired to 'keep the lights on' until downtown move, Hillsborough administrator says

    Local Government

    TAMPA — If the Museum of Science and Industry moves downtown, top Hillsborough County officials say its new leader shouldn't move with it.

    County administrator Mike Merrill told the Tampa Bay Times that Molly Demeulenaere, recently named president and CEO of MOSI, was good enough to "keep the lights on." But he doubted her ability to lead the north Tampa museum in a new era downtown....

    Though MOSI is an independent nonprofit, Hillsborough County is closely connected to the museum.
  7. Half-cent transit plan divides Democrats in Hillsborough commission race


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County's failed 2010 ballot referendum to raise the sales tax by a penny to pay for transportation improvements was a litmus test of sorts for local Republican candidates.

    Four of the county's five sitting Republican commissioners were candidates in 2010 and all four opposed the referendum at the time. The fifth, Commissioner Stacy White, campaigned against new taxes for transit in 2014 en route to winning his deeply conservative east Hillsborough district....

  8. Hillsborough's next big plan is an innovation district. But what is it?


    TAMPA — After decades of growing out, Hillsborough County now wants to grow from within.

    To get there, the county is jumping onto the latest trend in urban planning: building an innovation district.

    Hillsborough's proposed 2016 budget includes $2 million to create a master plan for redeveloping the area around University of South Florida. The so-called innovation district would link the economic engines in that region — like USF, Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center, among others — to try to resurrect nearby transient, high-crime neighborhoods....

    Mark Sharpe of the Tampa Innovation Alliance says 
the district would attract  development.
  9. Hillsborough County asks sheriff to make last-minute pitch for probation services

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners want to see if the Sheriff's Office is willing to monitor low-level offenders before it enlists a private company with a checkered history.

    That's why the commission on Wednesday held off on approving a $7.2 million, three-year deal for California-based Sentinel Offender Services to take over the county's misdemeanor probation services. It's the second time the contract has been delayed....

  10. Hillsborough County Commission votes to remove Confederate flag

    Local Government

    TAMPA — In a symbolic but surprising show of unanimity before a divided crowd, the Hillsborough County Commission voted 7-0 on Wednesday to remove the Confederate flag that has hung in the county government center for the past two decades.

    The vote followed an emotional debate about the emblem, which for some represents Southern pride but for others, especially black Americans, stands as a painful reminder of the nation's racist history....

    The County Center’s Confederate flag will be handed over to the Tampa Bay History Center by noon today.
  11. Hillsborough County raises stormwater fee for first time in two decades

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday approved the first hike in stormwater fees since 1991.

    The Republican-dominated board — typically adverse to anything that could be construed as raising taxes — voted 6-1 for a 150 percent increase in stormwater fees.

    Homeowners will see the fee rise from $12 per year to $30. Apartment complexes will pay $15 per unit and nonresidential properties will be charged 0.025 cents annually for every 1.5 square feet....

  12. Victor Crist calls for Hillsborough sheriff to handle county probation duties over controversial company

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist wants the Sheriff's Office to handle probation services for the county instead of a controversial private company, he told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.

    County commissioners are expected to decide Wednesday whether to give Sentinel Offender Services a $7.2 million, three-year deal to handle the county's misdemeanor probation operations....

  13. Pat Kemp donates $25,000 to her campaign for Hillsborough County commission


    TAMPA — Thanks largely to a $25,000 donation she gave herself last month, Pat Kemp has cut into her opponent's early fundraising lead in their Hillsborough County commission race.

    Kemp, former chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, raised $38,990 in June, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday. That brings her total to $43,740; $27,100 of it is her own money....

  14. State Supreme Court ruling shakes up Florida's political landscape


    The Florida Supreme Court took a wrecking ball to Florida's political landscape Thursday, throwing out the state's carefully crafted congressional districts drawn by the GOP-led Legislature and ordering a new map within 100 days.

    In the historic 5-2 ruling, the court not only ruled the maps were the product of an unconstitutional political gerrymandering, it signaled its deep distrust of lawmakers and provided detailed instructions on how to repair the flawed map in time for the 2016 election....

    District 14’s Kathy Castor, now in her fifth term, said she agreed with the court ruling.
  15. Hillsborough hires new parks and rec director from Georgia

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County has hired a new director of its Parks and Recreation Department.

    Dale Dougherty will take over Hillsborough's $27.3 million parks budget and 200 employees on Monday, the county announced Wednesday. He comes to Hillsborough after five years director of recreation for Macon-Bibb County, Ga.

    It's a considerable step up for Dougherty. Macon-Bibb's population is about 155,000 and its recreation department budget was $5.3 million. In Hillsborough, he'll be in charge of 51 recreation centers, 1,200 acres of open space and dozens of gyms, fitness centers and parks. ...