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Tampa City Council gives initial approval to $906 million budget for 2017

TAMPA — The City Council on Wednesday night gave its initial approval to Mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed $906 million budget for 2017.

This budget represents something of a breather, coming after a series of lean budgets following the recession and before some future budgets that could present challenges in the form of rising health care or pension costs.

Property values are expected to rise for the fourth straight year, which always helps. And, apart from the $35.5 million makeover of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, the budget doesn't feature a lot of high-profile public improvement projects.

Still, it would raise property tax bills. That's because keeping the same property tax rate — $5.73 in city taxes for every $1,000 of assessed taxable property value — would generate more in revenues as property assessments rise.

As calculated under Florida's Truth in Millage law, the city is looking at an effective property tax increase of a little less than 5 percent. While Florida's Save Our Homes constitutional amendment protects many homeowners from increases of more than 3 percent in their assessments, the cap doesn't apply to new construction, rental properties, hotels and commercial property.

The average Tampa house is assessed at $154,699 for tax purposes. If the owner has a homestead exemption, the city property tax bill would be about $600 next year. Add in property taxes levied by the School Board, Hillsborough County, the library system, the Children's Board and other taxing authorities, and that tax bill would be almost $2,387.

Also appearing for the first time on Tampa residents' property tax bills this November will be the city's new assessment for major stormwater drainage improvements.

The new fee starts at $45 per year for the owner of a medium-sized home, ramping up over six years to $89.55 annually. The fee will stay in place for 30 years, financing a $251 million drainage improvement program.

At the urging of council member Yvonne Yolie Capin, the council voted 5-2, with chairman Mike Suarez and Charlie Miranda voting no, to request the city allocate the council $25,000 to help pay for the process of reviewing the city's charter.

The final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 21 in the council chambers on the third floor of Old City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd. The city's 2017 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

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