TAMPA, Fla. — Whether it’s a congested intersection, bumpy road, or broken sidewalk, Hillsborough County’s growing needs frustrate Commissioner Kimberly Overman and many of the constituents she represents.
“Everyone wants their pothole filled, and most folks don’t like sitting in rush hour traffic, and rush hour seems to be more consistent with all-day anymore,” Overman said. “It’s very clear. We need to improve the network of roads that we have.”
According to county estimates, Hillsborough County’s transportation network will face roughly $2 billion in unmet funding needs over the next decade.
However, Overman hopes 2022 is the year a penny tax will finally be secured to help alleviate some of that need.
In a 2018 referendum, 57% of voters approved a penny tax, which collected more than $500 million in revenue in its infancy. However, the tax was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court last year.
After a challenge by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, the court agreed that the referendum and surtax were unconstitutional because commissioners didn’t have adequate control over how the money would be spent.
Since then, the need has only grown.
Now, Overman says county commissioners will likely place a new referendum on November’s ballot for a penny tax that will be constitutional.
“We still have a transportation shortfall,” she said. “We still need to invest in our infrastructure, and so I would anticipate that we will be asking voters to vote again on investing in our community when it comes to helping people get around, because that’s critically important to the jobs in the area, to our students, to our healthcare providers, that we’re able to get around efficiently and effectively.”
However, before a possible penny tax is back on the ballot, Overman and other commissioners want feedback from the people who drive, walk and bike along county roads, bridges, trails, and sidewalks.
“We’re looking to reach out to our citizens and find out what they’re thinking,” said Overman.
Those citizens will have that chance in a series of four upcoming meetings that start in about two weeks.
The transportation meeting schedule is as follows:
- District 1 - Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 6:00 PM - Jan K. Platt Regional Library, 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa, FL 33611
- District 2 - Monday, February 28, 2022, 6:00 PM - Northdale Recreation Center, 15550 Spring Pine Dr, Tampa, FL 33624
- District 3 - Tuesday, March 1, 2022, 6:00 PM - Lesley "Les" Miller, Jr. All People's Community Park and Life Center, 6105 E. Sligh Ave, Tampa, FL 33617
- District 4 - Thursday, March 3, 2022, 6:00 PM - Riverview Public Library, 9951 Balm Riverview Rd, Riverview, FL 33569
To get a penny tax on the November ballot, commissioners will need to get that input, draft the penny referendum, and approve it by April 30.
As for the money collected by the previous penny tax, Overman says it’s still in an escrow account as the county and court determine what to do with the funds. In March 2021 meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to return the money to taxpayers.