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Hillsborough wants public comment on planned sale tax referendum

A series of open houses begins in February
A proposed sales tax referendum for transportation will be the subject of four open houses beginning next month. Hillsborough County has said it faces a nearly billion-dollar shortfall over the next decade to build roads, improve intersections and add sidewalks and trails. Pictured is road work being done on the Citrus Park Drive extension on Sept. 23.
A proposed sales tax referendum for transportation will be the subject of four open houses beginning next month. Hillsborough County has said it faces a nearly billion-dollar shortfall over the next decade to build roads, improve intersections and add sidewalks and trails. Pictured is road work being done on the Citrus Park Drive extension on Sept. 23. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Jan. 6

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials are poised to hit the road to hear about transportation.

The county scheduled a series of community meetings beginning next month in anticipation of a proposed sales tax referendum on the November ballot. The schedule in included in information provided this week to the Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization.

Commissioners agreed in September to delay the open houses, previously slated to begin in October, amid timing concerns because of other public workshops on redistricting and comprehensive plan amendments and the still undermined fate of the $521 million collected from the prior transportation surtax.

All open houses begin at 6 p.m. They are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Jan K. Platt Regional Library, 3910 S. Manhattan Ave.
  • Monday, Feb. 28 at Northdale Recreation Center, 15550 Spring Pine Dr.
  • Tuesday, March 1 at the Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr. All People’s Community Park and Life Center, 6105 E Sligh Ave.
  • Thursday, March 3 at Riverview Public Library, 9951 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview.

A commission majority has said it wants to ask voters to consider a 1 percent sales tax for transportation this year to replace an earlier referendum voided by the Florida Supreme Court.

Related: Transportation tax debate informed by new poll

That referendum, approved by 57 percent of the voters in 2018, called for 45 percent of the revenue to be earmarked for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation Authority, known commonly as HART, for mass transit. Pre-pandemic projects estimated the tax would generate $276 million annually.

Hillsborough Commissioner Gwen Myers, who made the motion to restart the referendum for 2022, has said she wants the same funding formula to remain in place. It includes dividing 54 percent of the revenue among the county and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for congestion relief, safety improvements, sidewalks and trails. The Transportation Planning Organization would use 1 percent of the revenue for transportation planning and oversight.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled the tax unconstitutional last year on a challenge fronted by Commissioner Stacy White who said spending levels should be overseen by elected commissioners, not a predetermined formula.

Related: Hillsborough sales tax refund won't be coming soon

The tax generated $521 million during the 26 months it was collected. It remains unspent and how to handle a potential refund has not been determined by the courts.