Lutz area residents looking for signs the local economy is improving might only need look to Hillsborough County for some encouragement.
After facing losses that amounted to about $300 million over the last six years, Hillsborough County’s Budget Director Tom Fesler gets to present commissioners with some relatively good news Thursday, Feb. 14.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Fesler will provide commissioners with a preliminary budget analysis that spells out the county’s estimated revenues and expenses with a deficit that could prove to be as small as $3.2 million. Those projections are for the Fiscal Year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, 2013. (The analysis contains projections for fiscal years 2013-18.)
There is a catch with the good news, however.
That $3.2 million deficit could climb to about $25.2 million if the county’s expiring local option gas tax isn’t renewed. That revenue stream involves a 6-cent charge on every gallon of gasoline sold in Hillsborough. They money raised is used to fund county road maintenance projects and transportation operations, Fesler said. A portion of it also goes to the county’s municipalities.
Things Are Looking Up
While the news isn’t entirely rosy, it’s a lot better than it’s been in years past, Fesler said.
“We consider it to be good news,” said Fesler, stressing that the “boon times” aren’t back quite yet.
Even so, “we’re in a position where we can balance the budget,” Fesler said, adding that a $3.2 million deficit is a “pretty nominal amount.”
Where Employees Stand
While past budget deficits forced the county to tighten its belt and shed the number of workers it employs, this year things are different.
“We don’t anticipate any employee layoffs at this point,” said Fesler.
He stressed, however, that numbers are preliminary and “things can change. We’re in the very early stages.”
The commission meets in a workshop Feb. 14 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. to hear details about the county’s projected revenues and expenses for the upcoming fiscal year and the next four. It is also working to lay the groundwork for its strategic plan and its customer service initiative, Fesler said.
Customer service and strategic planning decisions will help guide the county as it makes budget decisions, Fesler pointed out.
After the Feb. 14 workshop, the budget cycle will begin in earnest.
County Administrator Mike Merrill is anticipated to present his budget recommendations this June. The commission is expected to adopt a final budget Sept. 19.
The Feb. 14 workshop takes place at County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
County’s 6-Cent Gas Tax Ends in August
What budget priorities would you like to see commissioner’s set this year? Share your ideas in the comments section.