This is not new news, if you've been following Hillsborough County Commission:
TAMPA - Big projects like roads, parks and storm-water drainage will be stalled for years in Hillsborough County unless the county finds new sources of money.
County commissioners learned Wednesday that $129 million worth of capital projects approved in past years are sitting on the table because no money is available. And the capital improvement tax – a half penny sales tax used for building parks, schools and roads – has been depleted by five years of recession so nothing is left for new projects.This is old news. Let's dial the wayback machine to 2007.
Tucked along side the state's 7 percent piece of your purchase is another half-cent that Hillsborough County tacked on in 1996. At the time, the half-cent, known as the Community Investment Tax, was created largely to fund the construction of Raymond James Stadium.
Now, halfway through its 30-year lifespan, the tax has become a reliable pot of money the county and its four cities use to build the kind of quality-of-life amenities that shout "your tax dollars at work."
But those governments have also borrowed heavily against the tax revenue – a practice that, in recent years, has claimed large chunks of the CIT proceeds since the recession cut into local sales taxes in 2009.
By 2007, Hillsborough County had committed virtually all of the $2.4 billion it expected to get from the tax through 2026, largely by bonding the proceeds years before they were to be collected. At the time, commissioners defended their decision by noting they were saving money in the long run.
The City of Tampa also borrowed heavily against its community investment income, issuing bonds in 2001 and 2006 to finance several big-ticket projects. That debt paid for Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the Tampa Museum of Art, two of former mayor Pam Iorio's signature projects. It also helped expand Lowry Park Zoo and built baseball fields in New Tampa.
More recently, it paid for nearly $1 million in renovations to Ballast Point Park in South Tampa, renovations Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled earlier this month.The county commissioners bonded out the 30 year tax revenue stream from the Community Investment Tax back in the good old days of 2007. The recession hit, the revenues dipped, so county services get cut.
The grim financial report seemed to stun commissioners, who mostly greeted it with silence. Commission Chairman Ken Hagan questioned why a recovering economy wouldn’t generate enough growth in the Community Investment Tax to add new projects.
“I was always told when revenues went up, our bonding capacity would increase, thus allowing us to bring in more projects,” Hagan said. “We’ve had a couple of years now where things are up. How is it that we’re at zero capacity?”They bet. We lost.
Hagan and Mark Sharpe where on the BOCC in 2007 when the CIT was bonded out. This should not be a surprise.
We did get some new parks and museums. But road improvements, one of the core selling points of the CIT, are a now faint memory.
Did I mention Hillsborough County has a $3.2 billion backlog in road maintenance and safety improvements?
Did I mention we'll be paying for the CIT until 2026?
We are spending $500,000 for local film industry, another $28M for parks and soccer fields. Are those our new priorities?
Neglect, incompetence, or politics? What ever this is, it is not inspiring confidence in our BOCC.
Are you read to give these people more money?