Hillsborough County Administrators Address Voting Members

GAC Chair Rick Goldstein introduced Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise. After offering a bit of background on the county, Wise presented a detailed breakdown of the current Fiscal Year 2024 budget. The operating budget is $3.646 billion, which goes towards the sheriff’s office, enterprise funds, healthcare services, public works, libraries, parks and more. The countywide general fund pays for services for all county residents, Wise said, and then she provided specifics about the varying millage rates in the unincorporated county (including Westchase) and in the incorporated cities (Plant City, Temple Terrace and Tampa).

The county’s Capital Improvement Program budget is $1.615 billion, and the lion’s share goes to the water department and transportation. Other key recipients are parks, solid waste, fire services and libraries.

The county administrator’s organization employs 468 fewer people than it did in FY 2007, while Hillsborough’s population grew by 25%. Wise stressed the importance of increasing the number of fire stations and fire rescue positions to decrease response times.

Wise explained that Hillsborough County must have a balanced budget and officials work hard to ensure recurring revenues match recurring expenses. They also strive to maintain general fund reserves between 20-25%.

Wise added that the county would like to use some one-time dollars to make one-time capital improvements, with a focus on transportation. There will likely be a proposed solid waste assessment, and officials are considering a millage swap to lessen the burden on Hillsborough’s general fund without raising taxes, she added.

Wise opened the floor and a resident addressed speeding in Westchase. Given how much of the budget is dedicated to the sheriff’s office, he wanted to know why residents don’t see more police addressing the issue. Population explosion has contributed to a decline in the ratio of residents to deputies over time, Wise explained. She said she recognized his observation may be true, but adding both deputies and vehicles was an expensive proposition.

Castleford VM Mary Banks asked whether the county had considered decreasing trash pickup to once a week to reduce solid waste expenses. Wise said that, after examining many variables, officials decided it wasn’t worth the minimal savings to lose twice-weekly service.

Wise introduced Deputy County Administrator Greg Horwedel to discuss the Community Investment Tax (CIT). He explained that the CIT is a half-percent sales surtax that voters approved in September 1996. It expires November 30, 2026. The money collected can be used to invest in infrastructure; it may not be used towards operating costs or to hire employees.


From 1996 through FY 2024, the CIT has raised $2.3 billion, and voters must decide in November whether to renew the tax for an additional 15 years. Horwedel explained the history of the tax, and detailed how the money has been spent on a variety of projects over the years, including Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and Citrus Park Drive. Since 1996, 49% of those dollars in unincorporated Hillsborough County have gone towards transportation. For more details on how the money has been spent, residents may visit

Horwedel pointed out that if the county’s growth rate remains consistent, the population will be slightly more than two million by 2050. Eighty-three percent of that growth is estimated to be in the unincorporated part of the county. Calls to fire rescue have increased by 197% since 2000, and calls to the sheriff’s office have increased by 75% since 2009.

County officials have projected that, if approved, the renewed CIT would bring in a total of approximately $3.76 billion over 15 years. An audience member asked why the proposed renewal was 15 years, not 30. Horwedel explained the BOCC had a very active discussion on that topic, and decided they wanted to show voters that they could make good use of the proceeds before asking them to commit to another 30 years.

Deb Guerino, VM of the Villas of West Park Village, asked what the backup plan was if the CIT didn’t pass. Wise said she wasn’t certain but told VMs there had been no talk of a millage increase.

Another VM questioned whether any proceeds from the CIT would go towards the stadium. Wise explained that county officials are obligated to provide the stadium with operational and maintenance dollars that keep it up to NFL standards. Ongoing capital improvements are needed due to the stadium’s age, but no new improvements were on the table.

Radcliffe VM Eric Holt said that Linebaugh needs to be resurfaced, and asked whether there was a way for county residents to determine whether specific improvements were on the proposed CIT project list. Horwedel said those lists were still being created, but officials know Linebaugh is a major thoroughfare and would likely see that it was maintained properly.

WCA President Shawn Yesner informed the VMs that Westchase is hosting a Town Hall with State Representative Karen Gonzalez Pittman on July 17 at 6 p.m. at the Swim and Tennis Center to address insurance concerns.


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