Tampa council approves $754 million budget
TAMPA - No pay raises for city workers and no tax increases for city residents. Those are the highlights of Mayor Pam Iorio's $754 million budget for fiscal 2010, which was unanimously approved by Tampa City Council tonight. Council members also voted 5-2 to restore $1 million in funding for the Avenue of Arts project. Council members Linda Saul-Sena and Mary Mulhern voted against the motion. On Sept. 9, the council cut $2 million in proposed funding for the redevelopment project, earmarked to convert Zack Street into an artsy, two-way, pedestrian-friendly roadway.Council members decided to split that money with the parks and recreation department, for citywide upgrades for neglected parks, pools and neighborhoods. The council had originally diverted all of the $2 million funding for Zack Street to parks and recreation. Downtown business owners asked council members to put the money into Zack Street; while neighborhood groups urged them to keep the money for citywide improvements. "You're taking money away from children and putting it into a street," said Spencer Kass, president of the Virginia Park Residential Neighborhood Association. "That's not right." Iorio proposed the split as a compromise and had lobbied council members for support. "It's not about pitting children against parks," said Santiago Corrada, Tampa's neighborhood services administrator, speaking on the mayor's behalf. "This is a compromise." The 2010 budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, is nearly 10 percent lower than last fiscal year's $836 million budget and includes about $21.5 million less in local tax proceeds. Tampa's property tax rate will also remain unchanged for the third fiscal year in a row. Under that rate, the owner of a house assessed at $200,000, with the standard $50,000 homestead exemption, would pay about $860 in city taxes. City property owners also pay Hillsborough County schools, water management district and other local taxes. To plug a $51 million budget shortfall, the city will use $31 million in reserves and not offer pay raises to the city's police, firefighters and general employees next year. Iorio and department heads and senior managers also would go without salary increases. Still, while city workers won't be getting cost-of-living raises, some could get merit raises. Contracts for Tampa's police officers, firefighters and general employees expire on Sept. 30, and if union representatives and city officials cannot break the current impasse by then, state labor laws require that the existing FY 2009 contracts remain in effect. If that happens, merit, or step raises from this fiscal year - ranging from 3 to 4.2 percent for some - would have to be carried over. That would cost the city roughly $5 million.
Reporter Christian M. Wade can be reached at (813) 259-7679