Rustmann blasts Dingfelder for advocating putting tax measure to support city parks on ballot

Dingfelder's response came as the Council heard Parks & Rec director Karen Paulus explain the rationale for the increased fees, which come after her department has been hit hard by the tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts the city has had to make over the past several years.  The increased fees are an artifact of those cuts, which have seemingly been, if not painless to the great masses city residents, not as oppressive as one might fear. Until now.

But in on example of the draconian fee increases,  after-school programs now cost $25 a week.  Previously they were $12 a year.  Enrollment in those after school program have taken a clear hit, with only 784 students involved vs. 1,700 from a year ago.

But any time an elected official discusses a tax or fee hike, he or she knows that can likely be used against him or her at the polls (though in Dingfelder's case, like Hillsborough County Commissioners and the debate about a ballot measure on transit, he is calling for putting the issue in front of the voters to decide, as to do so otherwise would be political suicide).

Dingfelder was unavailable for comment.  The District One seat is currently held by Republican Rose Ferlita, who has not declared her intentions for next year.  Ferlita is seriously weighing a run for Tampa Mayor.

After the Tampa City Council heard from a number of citizens two weeks ago complaining about increased fees to utilize city recreation facilities, Councilman John Dingfelder suggested a $1 monthly tax for every property owner in Florida, with those fees going to programs for kids and seniors.  He said that it might it should be up to citizens to decide the matter on next year's ballot, and three other Council members voted to support him on the issue (the exception was Mary Mulhern, with Tom Scott and Joseph Caetano absent).

Now Republican Trey Rustmann, who is a possible general election opponent of Dingfelder for Hillsborough County Commission in District One, is calling out Dingfelder for the suggestion, employing Councilwoman Mulhern's comment at the meeting, that "It could be the Dingfelder parks tax," in his newsletter e-mailed out this morning.

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