Thursday, May 26, 2016

No Sales Tax Hike Needed! Revenue Growth of Existing Budget Can Fund Roads & Transportation Needs

Tampa, Fl
Posted by: Sharon Calvert


Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

The sales tax hike and spender collaborators down at County Center are desperate and are trying to charge ahead again for another unnecessary sales tax hike. At Wednesday's BOCC meeting, the commissioners made it official as they voted 6-1 to hold another sales tax hike public hearing on June 9th at 6pm. We posted here they had voted at a workshop meeting the week before to take a 15 year sales tax hike. Perhaps they wanted to ensure the vote was legal and on the up and up so they put it on the agenda for a vote again at a regular BOCC meeting.

The Eye was there.

This time they plan to hold the meeting at County Center, apparently not expecting a big crowd. After enduring over three years of this transportation initiative turned three ring circus, it's a good bet many people are simply disgusted with the entire flawed, crony and deceptive process.

A number of citizens attended the meeting and made a public comment in opposition of the sales tax hike proposal. Two citizens who spoke analyzed the current budget and projected revenue growth and stated the county's existing budget growth will fund our roads and transportation needs - no sales tax hike is needed. Former county commissioner Ed Turanchik presented a forward looking revenue model that he and Steve Polzin, a transportation expert at USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research who was formerly a HART Board member for years, developed. The model is based on the county's existing budget of unrestricted general funds. The revenue model Turanchik handed to the commissioners can be found here.

Below is Turanchik's revenue summary chart using a 5% and a 6% growth rate.
Projected 10 year Revenues
Citizen Jim Davison also analyzed the projected revenue growth of our existing budget under numerous growth scenarios.  Davison's analysis can be found hereBy Limiting the growth in the ad valorem taxes available to budget, the surplus between the cap and actual revenues is what is available for transportation. 

County Administrator Mike Merrill presented to the commissioners at a February Budget Workshop he estimated County Revenue growth for FY2017 at 7.88%.
FY2017 Recurring New Revenue Growing 7.88%
According to the Florida Association of Counties, property tax values increased 7.77%from 2014 to 2015 and increased 7.3% from 2013 to 2014. Our revenues have been on an upswing for a number of years. When the recession hit in 2008, the county diverted all property tax revenues that have historically always funded our roads and transportation needs to balancing the budget. As our economy has improved and our revenues started to grown again, the county never re-diverted or directed any of our growing property tax revenues back to our roads and transportation needs.

As we have stated since last year, it is absurd for the county commissioners to ask taxpayers to raises their taxes for money the county already has.

We have been told for years there is no money for roads. That is simply not true. The public was told there was no money for our roads and transportation needs over and over and over throughout the entire Go Hillsborough debacle. That was simply not true. 

No business, individual or family runs their own budget by funding everything else except their highest priorities first. Where is the business community? Where is the media? Why aren't they holding our electeds accountable? Because they too simply want another unnecessary sales tax hike?

Commissioner Stacy White hit the nail on the head when he stated Wednesday there has been no organized group of people consistently showing up at BOCC meetings asking for their taxes to be raised. He is absolutely correct. We've been there. The Eye's been attending BOCC meetings and budget hearings throughout this transportation initiative and the only constituents consistently showing up to speak on the matter are those who oppose the sales tax hike who were offering alternatives and other recommendations.

County commissioners who three and a half years later suddenly ask for citizen input on alternative funding options indicate they have not been listening, either do not understand or refuse to understand the estimated growth of the county's existing budget, want to continue spending on lower priority items or their own pork projects, were provided filtered information from the crony Go Hillsborough debacle, refuse to seriously consider any funding option but a sales tax hike or refuse to use their own political capital to fund our roads and transportation. 

The easy way out is to throw another sales tax hike on the ballot and then the commissioners do not have to be held responsible for anything. They can blame you, the voter, when it fails. Is that what we expect from our elected officials who are paid $100K a year to be policymakers and provide significant oversight to our budget?

The reality is there is no appetite in Hillsborough County for a sales tax hike and the commissioners know it. Any sales tax hike proposed will continue to have a dark cloud swirling around it from the crony phony Go Hillsborough debacle. It will fail and then we all lose.

The pursuit for an unnecessary sales tax hike has become not only politicized but has a taint of vengeance by some who collaborate to marginalize anyone who does not tow their sales tax hike and spend agenda. It is not an attractive behavior to watch or observe.

It is no longer about an engineered, performance and metric driven transportation plan to relieve congestion, increase mobility and maintain our roads because Merrill and some commissioners have drowned out everything else.

It is now only about an unnecessary sales tax hike - any sales tax hike…

Posted by: Sharon Clavert
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