TEMPLE TERRACE — The Temple Terrace City Council has tentatively approved the highest tax rate in Hillsborough County for the second consecutive year.
With no objections from the public, the city council unanimously voted this week to support a proposed property tax rate of $6.43 per $1,000 of assessed value and a $48 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year on a first reading. Councilman David Pogorilich was absent.
Though the rate is not increasing, city leaders expect to generate 2.64 percent more in revenue due to an increase in property values.
Tampa’s property tax rate is $5.73 per $1,000; Plant City’s rate is $4.72; and unincorporated Hillborough County’s rate is $4.37.
Temple Terrace City Manager Gerald Seeber said new revenue will be used to balance the city’s general fund.
The property tax rate has been on the rise in Temple Terrace for about five years. City officials initially increased the rate to overcome a $1.2 million budget shortfall several years ago caused by a loss of revenue resulting from a decline in home values.
The shortfall forced city leaders to tap into reserves to balance the budget.
The city also pays about $600,000 annually from the general fund to repay $24 million borrowed to make infrastructure improvements at the downtown redevelopment site. However, council members voted this week to refinance the loan, a move which would reduce the interest on the loan.
Now that Temple Terrace is on stronger footing, city officials see the current tax rate as a practical way to maintain city services for their 25,000 residents.
“We try to maintain our services at a level our citizens have come to expect and to make sure the response times for the police and fire departments are second to none,” Temple Terrace Assistant Finance Director Ted Beason said.
Mayor Frank Chillura said he would like to see a lower property tax rate.
He worries the current rate could jeopardize the city’s economic growth and limit potential employers interested in relocating to Temple Terrace.
Residents will get another chance to offer input on the proposed tax rate and annual budget at a second public hearing at 6 p.m. Sept. 18. Then the council will take a second and final vote.
The council meeting on Sept. 18 will be a rare Wednesday evening session.