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Tampa City Council not likely to be setting higher millage rate tonight

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Tampa City Council plans to hold its first public hearing tonight to discuss Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s proposed budget Wednesday night, but that hearing will likely be continued and rescheduled as the city continues to recover from the impact of Hurricane Irma.

A quorum of the board will meet as scheduled, but it eis xpected that they will do so only to decide continue it until a future date. The Council must hold two public hearings before voting on the budget, which will include the first millage increase in 29 years.

An earlier version of this article indicated that the public hearing would automatically be continued. Sal Territo, attorney for the city of Tampa, writes to SPB that the council has yet to make that decision, and will vote on it at tonight’s meeting.

The mayor originally asked the Council to raise the city’s millage rate nearly a point, from 5.7326 to 6.6326, as part of his $974 million budget package for fiscal year 2018.

After receiving some pushback from Councilmembers, Chief Financial Officer Sonya Little returned back to the board last week with two lower tax increase possibilities — one that would cut the tax to .75 mills. The other would lower it to .6. Both options would include using $5.2 million in BP money still left over from the city’s $20 million settlement with the oil giant following the massive 2010 oil spill that affected tourism in Tampa.

The Council ended that meeting by declaring that they would set the maximum millage rate at the first public hearing of the budget, originally scheduled for this evening. The Council will now meet tonight to reschedule.

“We’re looking at different options, and right now we don’t know what the options are going to be until we all come together and start talking about it,” says City Councilman Mike Suarez. 

The Council could pass a continuing budget if it comes to that, since it is allowed under the city charter. However, that’s a scenario that the council and the administration would like to avoid.

One thing is certain however: the Council will not be holding a hearing on raising taxes tonight.

“I want to make sure that people have the ability to show up and discuss the budget,” said Suarez, adding, “I don’t think it’s fair when people are still picking up their yards and figuring out whether they have electricity. It just doesn’t make sense for us to have a hearing that’s the first time we’ve done this in 29 years and changed the millage. It’s not fair to not have public input.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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