Hillsborough Commissioners want to cut property taxes again
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07/29/09 MItch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Despite a $140 million dollar shortfall, Hillsborough County Commissioners today indicated that they’d like to cut their millage rate, if for no other reason than that they’ve done it every year for the past decade.

County Budget Director Eric Johnson, recently caught in the middle of a feud between Commissioners and Administrator Pat Bean after Bean gave raises to top assistants like Johnson, suggested that they could avoid being attacked by the media if his staff could construct a budget that provides for a small reduction in the millage rate.

Under the worst economic conditions in decades in the County, and with hundreds appearing at a recent town hall meeting decrying cuts to the budget, Johnson admitted that it would certainly be appropriate to keep the millage at the same rate as last year. But he admitted that might not play well in the media.

Commissioner Al Higgenbotham said he was ‘convinced’that additional funds can be found for some of the programs that are on the chopping block.

Commission Chair Ken Hagen said he would definitely like to see a reduction.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner was the lone dissenting voice to try to slow down the excitement to reduce property taxes once again in the County.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita, widely considered to be running for Mayor in Tampa in 2011, said she considered the symbolism of a millage decrease important.

Commissioner Jim Norman, who has served on the County Commission for 17 years, for the past 16 has served on a board that cut millage rates. He said critics could denounce such a small decrease as ‘symbolic’, but said so is the cut in pay that the Board will take in the form of furloughs later this year.

Commissioner Beckner asked Budget Director Eric Johnson to show if he could how such a millage decrease would negatively affect the loss of a program or programs.

The Board will hear Johnson’s new budget with a millage decrease tomorrow morning.

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