HART Proposes Tax Increase

TAMPA -- HART is proposing to balance its 2012 and 2013 budgets by raising the tax rate property owners pay to support transit, trimming service this fall and raising fares between 15 cents and 50 cents in November 2013.

Each of the steps the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority staff and board members outlined in a workshop Monday would lead to balancing the budget that takes effect October 2012 with some steps to save money sooner.

Officials say they hope the changes will be small and gradual enough not to hurt ridership.

HART is setting ridership records but recently lost its chief executive in a messy internal political situation involving whistleblower allegations of hostile work environments for some employees.

These proposals are under consideration:

Changes to HART's bus routes and schedules, along with previously announced realignments beginning in July to save $721,000, would continue in November.

HART intends to increase the maximum tax rate on county property from 0.4682 per $1,000 to 0.5 per $1,000 because HART's tax revenue is declining as home and property prices fall. The increase would add $2 million in tax revenue, resulting in $29.6million from the property tax in fiscal 2013.

The HART board can raise the ratewithout review by the county commission and will vote on the higher tax rate following two public hearings in September.

HART will consider daily, three-day and 31-day fare increases to take effect in November 2013, such as increasing the one-way full fare from $1.75 to $2 and a three-day pass from $11 to $11.75. Those changes are projected to increase fare revenue by 4.5 percent or $500,000, but would result in a 2.1 percent loss in ridership.

The plan is to achieve $64.7million operating revenue in the projected fiscal 2013 budget, compared with $62.1 million in the projected fiscal 2012 budget that begins in October.

The TECO Line Streetcar System also faces challenges, with its $5 million operating endowment scheduled to run out of money in January.

"Spreading out service would not be too painful to our riders," HART board member David Mechanik said, which would mean running the streetcar less frequently during certain times.

tjackovics@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7817

Photo credit: JIM REED/STAFF

Photo: Riders board a HART bus at the Marion Transit Center in Tampa. The transit authority is experiencing record ridership.

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