The Florida Supreme Court will decide the fate of Hillsborough County’s voter-approved transportation sales tax. But the board that will supervise how that tax money is spent is eager to get to work.
The Independent Oversight Committee has 13 members. The Board of County Commissioners picks four. Tampa gets two seats (one appointed by the mayor, the other by the city council). Plant City and Temple Terrace each pick one seat. HART, the county’s transit agency, has two seats. The county Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, and Clerk of Circuit Court appoint one seat each.
Most of the members have government experience, including former State Rep. Sean Shaw (D-Tampa), who was elected chairman. Tuesday’s meeting was mostly a “getting to know you” session. The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning organization is helping the committee start its work.
“We were talking with the committee members about what their process would be for receiving those project plans and looking at them and certifying them to be in compliance with the charter amendment approved by the voters,” MPO Executive Director Beth Alden said after the meeting.
The committee’s main task will be to review plans for transportation projects funded with sales tax revenue. It will also conduct an annual audit to make sure tax revenue is being properly spent. The committee may also consider ideas for transportation projects from the public. Members expressed concern that could open the door to unrealistic and unworkable proposals.
Neither the amendment to county charter that set up the tax nor the committee’s bylaws spell out how the panel will accept proposals from the public. The MPO agreed to look into some possible solutions and report back.
The committee will hold another introductory meeting in September, where members will learn more about transportation planning. In the meantime, Hillsborough County and its cities are collecting the transportation sales tax but can’t spend it until the legal challenge is resolved. Chief Assistant County Attorney Sam Hamilton told the committee that the Supreme Court could hear arguments in the case later this year.