County seeks public's input on transit tax
May 13, 2010
After more than a year of discussions, Hillsborough County commissioners are poised to put a 1 cent sales tax for transportation projects on the Nov. 2 ballot.
But commissioners want to hear what the public thinks about the idea first. Tonight, residents will get a chance to speak on the issue during a four-hour public hearing starting at 6 p.m. After the public comments, the commission is scheduled to vote on putting the tax on the ballot.
The event is expected to draw hundreds, if not thousands of residents, so the county is using the cavernous All People's Life Center at 6105 E. Sligh Ave. Doors open at 5 p.m. and residents have to pre-register to speak. Each speaker will get a minute and a half to talk. The commission will also accept written comments.
The idea for a transit tax grew out of deliberations by the county's 21-member transportation task force created in December 2006. The group recommended to county commissioners that they put a 1 cent sales tax on the ballot in order to alleviate the county's traffic jams and boost future economic development.
In April 2009, commissioners told the county legal team to begin drafting language for the referendum. Since then, commissioners have taken interim actions that show a majority favors putting the measure before voters.
If the tax passes, 75 percent of the proceeds would go to mass transit projects including a light rail system and expanded bus routes. The remaining tax money would be spent on roads and walking and biking trails.
During the first 10 years of tax collections, 90 percent of the portion earmarked for roads would be spent in unincorporated Hillsborough County. The remaining 10 percent would be spent in Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace. After 10 years, the amount of money going to the county for roads would be reduced to 40 percent.
Tonight's hearing will begin with a brief presentation from county and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit officials. HART is the county agency that operates bus lines and other mass transit.
The hearing will be broadcast live on Hillsborough Television on channel 622 for Bright House subscribers and on channel 22 for Verizon and Comcast customers. It can also be viewed through live online streaming at www.htv22 .org.
Parking for tonight's event will be available at the All Life's Center, including disabled parking, and at King High School west of the center, and a large grassy lot to the east. A map of the site and other information about the transit tax are available at the county website, www.hillsboroughcounty.org.
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