Bean details what could be cut in County budget06/01/07 Mitch E. Perry
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As the state legislature prepares for a potential reduction in property taxes, Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean said today she wanted County residents to fully understand the implications of what that could mean for County residents. (roll tape#1 o.q.”that is , what we will do”) What she is referring to are budget cuts to local services, which could range from $46 million if a Senate plan is approved, or $217 million if a plan proposed by House Speaker Marco Rubio was approved. Of course, other plans could still eminate from Tallahassee, as the Legislature convenes in a special session later this month. Late last month, Bean issued a memo announcing a hiring freeze in the County Government. She also told employees to expect layoffs, but did not specify departments where the cuts would be. Today she did.. he first round of cuts would cancel the planned construction of seven libraries and 10 fire stations and the elimination of 45 jobs,. Salary increases would be scaled back, but not eliminated. However, if the county loses $108 million – the amount a compromise property tax reduction plan is expected to cost Hillsborough – then code enforcement, staff for the Westgate Senior Center and some Fire Rescue services would be cut. Several positions in the county’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department would also be cut, including workers at dog parks, ball fields and other facilities. The plan would also eliminate 233 positions, most of which would come from the parks, Aging Services and wetlands mitigation programs. (roll tape#2 o.q.”it’s not that’) If and when property taxes are cut, the shoe will drop completely on City and County governments – not on schools. Unlike Proposition 13, the infamous measure that California citizens approved in their own version of a tax revolt 29 years ago, schools will not be affected by the cuts – just local government. Speaking to National Public Radio, Florida Governor Charlie Crist assailed local governments for saying that a major property tax cut means police and firefighters jobs could be affected…He has accused local governments of complaining too much. But local governments seem to have an argument when they say that not only will they have to pick up the pieces from a property taxes, but are also being hit with unfunded mandates from the state, such as having to pay to make the transition from touch screen voting machines to those with a paper trail (roll tape#3 o.q.”another unfunded mandate”) The Property tax crises has erupted in part because of escalating property appraisals – which have given local governments more money to spend each year. But County Administrator Pat Bean insists that the County has been responsible in its spending, though she admitted that they could tighten their belts even more. And seemed to get defensive when asked by a reporter if she was advocating that the property tax cut not go through (roll tape#4 o.q.”is going to be laid off””_)
The proposed cuts will be discussed next Wednesday at the next Hillsborough County Commission meeting.