Tampa’s Mayor Jane Castor unveiled a proposal for the city’s inaugural property tax hike in decades on Thursday. This initiative, integrated into the fiscal year 2024 budget, aims to generate funds dedicated to improving roads and bolstering transportation systems.
In the proposed budget, there is an allocation of $45 million dedicated to new investments in areas such as transportation, public safety, housing, and parks. Mayor Castor emphasized that the property tax increase is essential to provide the necessary funding for these specific investments.
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According to Castor, there is a proposed increase of one point in the millage rate, reaching 7.2076, which translates to an estimated monthly expense of around $20 for an average household. This potential adjustment would establish the highest millage rate since 1982’s 8.16 and mark the initial increase since it was last modified to 6.5390 in 1990.
Tampa voters said they want better transportation infrastructure and were willing to pay for it, Castor said at Thursday’s meeting.
“There could be no clearer message from voters that the time to act is now,” Castor said. “This is something that we hear about all the time from the public, but also from members of City Council.”
Castor called the budget proposal “historic” and the first step to fixing infrastructure and transportation needs over the next 30 years.
“These are needs, they’re not wants,” she said.
“Tampa residents don’t want to hear about why we can’t afford to fix our often-failing streets, they want us to take responsibility now and get to work, and this is exactly what this budget does,” Castor said.
A component of the outlined transportation enhancements entails increased pavement, expanded sidewalks, and enhanced safety measures.
Officials have highlighted that a substantial portion exceeding 40% of Tampa’s road network is currently in a state of disrepair. This underscores the necessity for extensive road reconstruction rather than simple repaving.
Out of Tampa’s 125 neighborhoods, a total of 44 have been assessed by city officials to have “poor” pavement conditions.
Beyond pavement concerns, over half of Tampa’s 600 traffic signals require replacement as they have surpassed their “useful life,” with each intersection renovation incurring a cost of around $1 million.
Should the millage increase be absent, approximately 30 neighborhood projects are projected by city officials over the upcoming five years. However, with the proposed increase, around 100 projects could potentially be completed within the same five-year timeframe.
Officials said with the property tax increase, they could complete 3 miles of sidewalks per year, as opposed to a half-mile. They could also replace four traffic signals per year instead of one.
“Without additional funding, service levels will remain as they are while demand and deferred maintenance increases,” Castor said. “The public is demanding that we start tackling these challenges head on. That we invest in our infrastructure and increase our services levels today. Not tomorrow, not in the next administration, or under the next council, but now. And we have to listen.”
Castor said Tampa is at a pivotal point in its history and is asking council to ensure the city has the resources to “keep Tampa thriving.”
The proposed budget will be voted on at a later date.