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Hillsborough budget plan tops $8.5 billion

Administrator proposes more spending on public safety, employee wages, park renovations
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue station 45 under construction at 307 Pauls Drive in Brandon. The proposed county budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for building a new fire station in Sun City Center and hiring 21 firefighters to staff it.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue station 45 under construction at 307 Pauls Drive in Brandon. The proposed county budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for building a new fire station in Sun City Center and hiring 21 firefighters to staff it. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jul. 20

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners will consider a nearly $8.56 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, a 14.4 percent spending increase financed by rising property values, new construction joining the tax rolls and proceeds from the community investment sales tax.

County Administrator Bonnie Wise budget proposal, released Wednesday, is heavy on public safety spending. It includes nearly $40 million more for Sheriff Chad Chronister’s office, $10 million to renovate the county jail, more than $4 million for a new fire station in Sun City Center and 21 firefighters to staff it, upgrades to other fire-rescue units and $29 million for construction of a new warehouse for the emergency management and fire departments.

“There is a real emphasis on this budget on public safety,” said Commissioner Harry Cohen. “The value of keeping our citizens safe is first and foremost in all of our minds. This is an expression of that.”

The proposal also included $12 million for park renovations and increasing staffing at three county recreation centers, $10 million for affordable housing, and $42 million for raises and enhanced benefits for county employees.

“While revenue growth is strong, the county is experiencing significant inflationary pressures and a very challenging labor market,” Wise told commissioners.

The late stages of the 30-year sales tax, known as the community investment tax, is providing $54.6 million that hasn’t already been earmarked for another purpose. Wise proposed using it for jail maintenance, the public safety warehouse, planning and design of the planned African American Cultural Center and maintenance of parks and conservation land. The voter-approved tax expires in 2026 and additional money is available because previously issued bonds have been paid off.

The county budget includes two separate general funds and Wise proposed no changes to the tax rates to finance them.

All property is assessed at a rate of just less than $5.74 per $1,000 of property value for jail operations, constitutional offices, human services, economic development and other programs.. Businesses and residents in the unincorporated areas of the county, about two-thirds of the county population, also pay a rate of just less than $4.38 per $1,000 for services such as fire, law enforcement, parks and recreation, code enforcement and other departments.

Property within the three cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace pay separate taxes to their municipal governments.

Under the current county tax rates, the owner of a home assessed at $250,000 would receive tax bills totaling $1,146 for the countywide fund and $875 for the unincorporated area.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet July 28 to set the property tax rates and to consider their own one-time spending ideas, known as flag items. Kevin Brickey, county budget director, said there is $15 million that can be used for commissioners’ items. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

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