HART approves millage rate ceiling hike

08/01/11 Janelle Irwin
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This morning, the Board of Hillsborough’s transit agency, HART, raised the maximum amount it can assess homeowners for the county’s bus and other transportation services. During the two hour meeting the board also addressed collective bargaining and changes to In-Town-Trolley routes.

Meeting rising costs without asking tax payers to pony up is becoming more and more difficult in a struggling economy and issues concerning transportation are no exception. In their first meeting since June, the HART board of directors increased the maximum transportation millage rate to 0.5 mils, or 50-cents for every 1000-dollars of assessed property value. The current rate is just under 0.47 mils. The new rate will be determined in September after two public hearings. Chief operating officer Katharine Eagan said the increase is necessary to continue vital services.

If the maximum is approved, it will represent an average annual increase of 41-cents per year, per household. Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharp came to the meeting expecting to vote against the measure, but changed his mind after considering the alternative.

Commissioner Sandra Murman held her ground though. She said a vote approving any increase would contradict her decision in last week’s County Commission meeting to decrease millage rates. She was the only dissenting vote.

The board of directors also addressed what will be the next steps in the collective bargaining process affecting 580 HART employees; almost all of which are bus drivers. Negotiations began with six issues on the table. General Councilor Charles Fletcher said so far agreements have been made on half of those with issues pertaining to wages and benefits still remaining.

The board also approved a measure that will end nights and weekend service for the In-Town-Trolley Green route in downtown Tampa. The change takes affect in November and will allow for Purple line services to continue during morning and afternoon commutes. Board members also voted to discuss major changes to the Transit Development Plan at an August 22 Special Board Meeting. The TDP focuses on high-quality and expanded bus service, as well as enhanced transit options.

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