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County Invites Residents to Comment on Proposed Budget

Public hearings are scheduled for Sept. 12 and 20.

Residents will have a chance to comment on Hillsborough County's 2013 budget at two public hearings Sept. 12 and 20.

However, County Administrator Mike Merrill isn't expecting a groundswell of opponents. He said he believes he's proposing a budget that will meet the approval of county taxpayers.

"I am pleased to submit a recommended budget that is balanced without using reserves, without raising taxes, and without reducing service to our citizens," said Merrill. "Despite the most severe economic downturn in our collective memory, Hillsborough County remains in sound financial condition."

The proposed $3.06 billion budget reduces the millage rate by 4.24 percent from the aggregate roll-back millage rate.

The millage rate is the tax rate applied to property. Each mill represents $1 of tax assessment per $1,000 of assessed property value. This means residents with a home valued at $165,000 with a homestead exemption can expect less than a $1 reduction in their property taxes.

Merrill said county was able to stabilize property taxes by eliminating duplication, waste and inefficient processes in county government while improving customer service.

That doesn't mean the county hasn't felt some hunger pains as a result of the ongoing recession. 

The county is expecting property tax revenue to decline by 2.5 percent in 2012, resulting in a budget shortfall of $9 million.

However, Merrill said that loss has been counterbalanced by stronger-than-expected sales and tourist taxes.

While the proposed budget includes $560.5 million in capital improvements, Merrill said a number of capital improvement projects had to be postponed due to limited resources.

To fund these projects, Merrill has suggested the county commission consider a voter-approved referendum to fund $80 million in parks and recreation projects.

The proposed 2013 budget includes:

  • Additional parks and recreation centers, including $2.2 million for construction of the FishHawk Area Recreation Center and $2.8 million for the FishHawk Sports Complex expansion
  • Improvements to the 10 most dangerous intersections in the county
  • $2 million as the county's contribution to a new South Shore YMCA
  • $1.6 million to renovate and expand the Riverview Fire Station No. 16
  • Reconstruction of ADA ramps and rehabilitation and repair of existing sidewalks to the tune of $9 million
  • $6.9 million in stormwater capital improvements
  • $4.5 million to resurface 35 miles of high-traffic roadways

The budget hearings will be held in the second-floor boardroom of the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The hearings start at 6 p.m. but speaker sign-up begins at 5:30 p.m.

Those who cannot attend can give their ideas and opinions on budget actions by sending emails to hcbudget@hillsboroughcounty.org, by voice or text to 813-704-0181 or by posting a comment on the budget blog.

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