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Hillsborough County Commission to decide how to spend $570M in transportation taxes

It's been years since Hillsborough County residents voted on a 1-percent transportation tax. That money is finally being allocated.

TAMPA, Fla. — Five years later, the Hillsborough County Commission is finally sorting out what to do with nearly $570 million worth of transportation tax revenue.

The money was collected back in 2019 after a transportation tax was voted for by the public in 2018. The measure was invalidated by the Florida Supreme Court in 2021, leaving the commission to sort out how to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The tax dollars were collected throughout Hillsborough County, including in municipalities. The county plans to spend the majority of the money in Hillsborough County, with smaller portions divided up throughout Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, documents show.

  • $424,260,921 is proposed to go to the county
  • $124,201,419 is proposed to go to Tampa
  • $12,751,113 is proposed to go to Plant City
  • $8,569,390 is proposed to go to Temple Terrace

During Wednesday's workshop meetings, all commissioners who addressed returning money to municipalities spoke in support of it. The catch is that it would reduce the county's budget for projects from $569 million to $424 million. This would mean removing or reducing the capacity in which some projects are considered. 

The projects currently under consideration include:

  • repaving roads 
  • repairing sidewalks
  • repairing/replacing bridges
  • improving intersection safety
  • improving corridor safety
  • reducing congestion
  • building trails

"Resurfacing and sidewalks," Ken Hagan highlighted as his top priorities with the funds. Hagan represented District 2. "I can just tell you that, from a District 2 perspective, those are the two areas we hear on a daily basis."

Other suggested topics for the money included funds for a maintenance center for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit and the next phases for trails located within the county. Some commissioners brought suggestions to the table that were specific to their districts. 

"One of the things that I'm going to focus on is widening Lithia Pine Crest Road," Michael Owen said. He represents District 4.

The total cost of the projects is $589 million, which exceeds the available one-time surtax funds. 

The commission said the key elements in drafting a plan are to focus these one-time funds on critically important or failing infrastructure, to provide an immediate and balanced impact on the community’s transportation system, make visible and meaningful enhancements to safety, maintenance, and travel times and include projects from the county’s adopted Capital Improvement Program.

The commission has until Feb. 15 to finalize its plans on how to spend the money, then those plans are sent to the Florida Legislature for approval, ahead of this year's session. 

The money, if approved, could be available as soon as July, with projects starting in October 2023. 

Malique Rankin is a general assignment reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. You can email her story ideas at mrankin@10tampabay.com and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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