Tale of Two Republicans manifested at HART meeting

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The millage increase would go from .4682 to .5. When the issue came before the board two months ago, both Sandy Murman and Mark Sharpe voted against it.

Murman said again Monday that she couldn't support the raise, saying she would look like a "hypocrite" after supporting a decrease in the millage last week with her position on the County Commission. "I think we have to dig a little deeper," she said, adding that asking all of the taxpayers in Hillsborough to raise their millage when only a small percentage utilize their services would be unfair.

But commissioner Kevin Beckner warned that a failure to raise the millage would interfere with the stated goal of the board to increase its basic services, not cut them. He then asked Katharine Eagan, the chief operating officer for HART, what would happen if the board ultimately voted not to increase the millage?

She recited a litany of service cuts that would include, eliminating weekend service in south Hillsborough on weekends, no service out to Brandon hospital on weekends, no Christmas or Thanksgiving service, and fewer rides from Brandon to MacDill Air Force Base.

HART has already cut 1.4 percent of its bus routes since March of 2010, but another reduction would eliminate two to three percent of current routes, or roughly twice as much as what has already been cut.

It was also revealed that the millage increase, which would add $1.8 million to HART's coffers, would break down to about 41 cents per year to Hillsborough citizens via their property taxes (that's based on the average household value of $90,420 in 2012).

After listening to Eagan, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said that he had changed his mind, and would now vote for the tax increase. Calling Commissioner a "kindred spirit," Sharpe said he understood where she was coming from, but said he couldn't go along with her in not approving the raise, adding,"My concern is we’d be entering into a death spiral, we’d be fulfilling a prophesy," by eliminating service routes.

Today's vote was on setting the maximum millage, but not the final vote locking in the new millage rates.

  • Sandra Murman

As we've noted on various occasions, last November's rejection of a transit tax in Hillsborough County not only killed the possibility of a light rail system being built anytime soon, but nine months later, there aren't any plans now over the next 10 years to revisit the issue.

However, members who serve on Hillsborough County's transit agency, HART, have said that what they can do for now is to concentrate on what they do best - efficient bus service.

But when it came time on Monday to vote to approve a maximum millage rate that the board will consider, which meant voting for a minimal increase in taxes to alleviate a large reduction in service, one Hillsborough County Republican chose to eschew the no-taxes mantra of his party and supported the modest measure, and one did not.

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