TEMPLE TERRACE — Worried they had little choice, the Temple Terrace City Council this week approved a $47.9 million annual city budget along with a tax rate that remains the highest in Hillsborough County for a second consecutive year.
It was not a popular decision.
Before the council vote, former Temple Terrace council member Ron Govin pleaded with city leaders to cut the budget and return some tax dollars to city residents. He asked the board to consider slashing the new budget by $200,000 to $300,000.
Council member David Pogorilich agreed, saying he made a commitment to voters to lower the property tax rate when the city economy began to show signs of life.
Mayor Frank Chillura also urged the board to consider slashing some money from the budget.
But most council members said they had no choice because of rising costs of maintaining city services and covering increased pension contributions.
By a vote of 4-1, with Pogorilich the lone dissenter, the council approved a property tax rate of $6.43 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Though the rate is not increasing, city leaders expect to generate 2.64 percent more in revenue due to an increase in property values.
By comparison, Tampa’s property tax is $5.73 per $1,000; Plant City’s rate is $4.72; and unincorporated Hillsborough County’s rate is $4.37.
Temple Terrace City Manager Gerald Seeber said the additional revenue will be used to balance the city’s general fund.
Property rates have 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 plans to tap into its reserves again this year as much as $500,000 to balance the budget, a move criticized by Pogorilich.
Councilwoman Alison Fernandez said she also doesn’t like dipping into reserve monies, but the board had little choice.
“I agree, but I don’t know where to cut it,” Fernandez said, referring to the new budget.
The city made tough decisions to cover the needs of its employee pension plan, staffing costs and city services as best it could, she said.