What is the source of those new revenues?
The new revenues for FY2016 include both recurring and one-time sources:
- $40 million of new RECURRING property taxes,
- Almost $7 million of new RECURRING sales tax revenues
- Almost $35 million of one-time bond proceeds
The new recurring revenues reflect a better local economy, rising housing values and new housing starts rising again.
So where are these NEW revenues being spent in 2016?
The most egregious is over $23 million of just plain pork barrel spending that includes:
- Over $10 Million for Parks, including $6 Million for Alafia Riverfront Park
- $7.5 million for community centers
Over $23 million of the new revenues are going to nebulous economic development projects:
- $2 million to former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe's Innovation Alliance
- $16 million of bond proceeds funding unnamed other economic development projects
A measly $2.8 million of the almost $100 million in new revenues will be used for roads.
The list of new revenues for FY2016 and where the county is planning to spend those revenues can be found here.
Other egregious county spending includes incentives to the wealthy film industry, a $15 million soccer complex and $3 million of our county tax dollars for a new park in New Tampa that is part of incorporated city of Tampa. Why isn't Mayor Buckhorn and the city of Tampa paying for this new park? Is Buckhorn just the Mayor of downtown Tampa?
Our roads have been neglected for years. Recent torrential rains have chewed up our roads more and made some of our pot holes look more like pot hole craters. The county has to put a cone around these pot hole craters so people drive around them.....until they are filled again....when many of our roads need repaving not refilling chewed up pot holes. Our bad roads affect our vehicles negatively and they are becoming safety hazards.
In addition, it appears that all the recents rains confirmed our storm water system has also been neglected. For transparency, my neighborhood was impacted with the local flooding. but we are not in a flood zone. We experienced a drainage problem and we are working with the county on fixing the underlying problems, a blog post for another day.
The reality is the county has basic problems maintaining, preserving and improving our infrastructure. That is a primary responsibility of local government. Maintaining and improving our infrastructure impacts and benefits all residents not just a few depending on where you live. Water must drain and 98% of us use our roads everyday.
The county revenues have been going up for several years and now we have almost $100 million of new revenues for FY2016. Our county is growing yet our roads and storm water have been neglected even as our revenues have been going up.
Why should the county spend millions on more parks (that they then must also maintain) and pet projects when they have not been doing the basics of maintaining and improving our existing infrastructure?
The county is now raising our storm water fees, a day late and a dollar short. The county commission is also looking at putting a proposed new 30 year $3.5 Billion sales tax hike on the 2016 ballot.
How are they doing this with a straight face?
Instead, the county should be proving they are serious about fixing our dilapidated and neglected existing infrastructure first. Before we are asked to hand over more of our money to the county, the county must first show fiscal responsibility for where they are spending our existing tax dollars.
The county commissioners must stop the pursuit of any new tax increase until they use some of their own political capital to re-prioritize the FY2016 budget.
Cut all pork barrel spending in FY2016.
Cut out all the pet projects and nebulous economic development projects until the county's basic priorities and responsibilities are funded.
Forget about baseball stadiums, jai alai frontons and moving MOSI downtown.
Focus on what is really important to us all.
The county must start appropriately funding our roads and infrastructure now using existing revenues.
And kiss any thoughts of a tax hike passing good-bye!