HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — There's a new twist in the debate over whether to raise your taxes to help prevent flooding in parts of Hillsborough county.
County commissioners asked the public works department to come back at the end of Thursday's meeting with new numbers because they could not get on board with the original hike proposal.
Public works officials have spent the last few weeks talking over a tax hike with residents. They say the extra money would be used to fix aging pipes, and clean out drains without having to rely on the county’s general fund.
Hillsborough county commissioners agree there is a major strain on the storm water system in unincorporated areas.
"Our pipes are regularly bursting, [and] are actually costing us more because we're patching them and not really fixing the system,” said Sandy Murman, County Commissioner for District 1. "We’re doing Band-Aids, we’re just reacting and you cannot keep a system going like this for very long."
Tensions were high though, as more than 20 residents shared their disapproval.
“Be responsible,” said Denise Bristol, who lives in Valrico.
Daniel Dixon showed commissioners pictures he’s snapped near Wimauma that shows three John Deere mowers in a row he says were cutting the same patch of grass on a county road.
"The same three tractors mowing the same 7 feet,” he said.
He doesn’t feel the public works department uses their time or money wisely.
"Vote this thing down, make them do what’s right. They would probably have so much money left over they could give it back to the general fund,” he said.
The original hike rate would have been based on the size of your home. The cost could have nearly doubled for a medium sized home.
Commissioner Kimberly Overman was confused by the rate methodology and ultimately said the math doesn’t match up to her.
"I’m not sure we are there yet. I recognize we need to raise it,” she said.
In the end, commissioners approved a smaller hike. They approved to set the maximum to what was originally recommended but keep a tiered system that would depend on the size of your home. The increase of the fees would be stretched over a 5 year period including fiscal year 2019.
They’ll look into implementing an appeals process and hardship program that could help low-income and/or fixed-income seniors. They’d also have a public hearing every year before the rates are adjusted.