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Tampa to face new financial challenges even before potential 2018 ballot measure hits

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

The Florida Legislature’s approval of a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot that could severely reduce the level of revenue coming to local governments is just the latest challenge to Tampa’s fiscal health, Chief Financial Officer Sonya Little told the City Council Thursday.

If passed by voters, the measure would expand the state homestead property tax exemption to $75,000. Over 4 million Floridians currently receive the current homestead exemption, which lowers the taxable value on a primary residence by $50,000.

“We’re projecting a roughly $6 million hit to our general fund with the loss of those revenues,” Little told Councilman Mike Suarez.

The potential hit to Hillsborough County would be much worse. County Administrator Mike Merrill says the county would have to cut or make up over $30 million a year if voters approve the additional $25,000 homestead exemption.

The city allotted $153.4 million for the current FY 2017 budget that goes through September. That’s still down from the pre-recession budget under former Mayor Pam Iorio in 2008, which was at $166 million.

Going back to that high-water mark of 2008 in terms of revenue coming into the city, Little said that cumulatively the city has lost a total of $287 million.

Discussions for the fiscal year 2018 will begin next month, and Little said that there will be several issues that will present a clearer picture of what that will look like, mentioning preliminary estimates of the property tax revenues for next year, as well as preliminary estimates on the city’s pension contribution requirements and a clearer gauge of what the city’s health care costs are going to be.

In response to a question from Councilman Frank Reddick, Little said everything will be on the table, including a consideration of raising millage rates.

“That is obviously one of the mechanisms in which we can address the city’s needs for FY18,” Little said.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn is scheduled to present his FY 2018 budget to the Council on July 20.


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

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