Tom Warne Report, 14 May 2012
TAMPA – All new roads projects in Hillsborough County, Florida have been put off for the foreseeable future by county officials because of a decline in funding in recent years from a voter-approved sales tax. The county’s share of the half-cent Community Investment Tax approved in 1996, has dropped by nearly 17 percent from the $49.6 million high in 2007. Use of the tax is limited to construction projects such as schools, fire stations and roads. The revenue hit an all-time low of $41.2 million in 2010, and has since come back in the first few months of this budget year, rising five percent since Oct. 1.
The downward trend has weakened the county’s borrowing power, and with the tax set to expire in 2016, the tax does not have the capacity to pay back future bond issues to pay for road and other construction. The county deferred $124 million in planned road work through 2014 because of falling tax revenues. Now those projects and any others needed to accommodate population growth are being shelved indefinitely, according to county chief financial administrator Bonnie Wise.
“It declined for several years,” Wise said. “Now, with the end in sight for 2026, we just don’t have the CIT funds available to fund capital projects. It’s going to continue to be a problem.” The county will continue work on projects already in progress, which are partially funded by a six-cent-per-gallon gas tax.