HART Mismanaged by Incompetent Board Whose Solution is New Taxes Instead of Resolving Problems
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
HART, the county's bus system, has been run into the ground financially by the same people who helped create the tax that will be on the ballot in November. It's not a coincidence that the 5 Hillsborough County Commissioners who voted to put the 1% sales tax on the ballot are the same commissioners who also sit on HART's Board of Directors. Also occupying HART board seats are Tyler Hudson and Rena Frazier. Hudson and Frazier are leaders of the political committee All For Transportation (AFT) and both are lawyers who advocated for the tax in 2018 but failed to recognize it was rife with illegalities and the tax was eventually struck down in 2021 by the Florida Supreme Court.
At the April 4, 2022 HART Board meeting, County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, a supposed financial planner, asked a consultant why HART has a budget "shortfall". The consultant responded it's primarily because "HART has higher operating costs than operating revenues" -- financial planning 101.
County Commissioner Pat Kemp then admitted "I've been on this board for 5 years and we've been on the edge of or even over a fiscal cliff for 5 years...the CARES act is [the only thing] that saved us." Hmm, maybe Kemp isn't cut out to lead this agency!
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor admitted at the same meeting that HART's declining financial position is depressing. She has been sitting on the HART Board since May 2019 after she was elected Tampa's Mayor. Her priority is not solving HART's real issues that transit dependent riders face everyday, her priority is funding the streetcar's extension and conversion to light rail which is what "modernizing the streetcar" means. She's not fazed by the fact this project lacks right of way which means lane loss and increased safety issues along Tampa St. and Florida Ave.
HART Board member comments don't inspire confidence they possess the business acumen to solve HART's financial problems. Their solution is to raise more taxes and ignore the underlying issues.
It is insane that HART is on the brink of a "fiscal cliff" when you consider HART has received record property tax revenues averaging +9.2% every year since 2016. HART has also received over $100 MILLION in COVID relief money from the three COVID relief bills. HART expects to receive more Federal funding in 2023.
But it gets worse when you compare key performance metrics from 2016 to the 2023 budget estimates.
HART's budget has ballooned over 50% since 2016 but astoundingly, the agency is providing 10% less service on the streets and 20% less riders.
Most egregious, the cost to provide a one-way bus ride almost doubled, from $5.23 to $9.78! Riders share of the cost is less than $1.00 per ride so taxpayers pickup the remaining $8.78 cost. A round trip bus fare to the corner store costs almost $20, per rider. No wonder HART board members are pushing for this new tax to bail out the agency they have mismanaged for years which is spiraling out of control. There has been little interest by the board asking needed questions such as "why has HART has become so inefficient? and "what can be done to stop the hemorrhaging?"
Don't paper over the HART board's incompetence by voting them in billions of dollars. They haven't earned taxpayer's confidence nor demonstrated they can be good stewards of our tax dollars. Vote NO on the 1% sales tax rate hike on Nov 8, 2022! (Read the entire EyeOnTampaBay.com article this post is based on HERE).