Tampa Mayor Unveils new budget by Mitch E. Perry

08/03/06

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio introduced her 2007 fiscal year budget this morning – a $728 million dollar document that she calls a “Commitment to the Basics�.

In presenting her last budget before she runs for re-election next spring, the Mayor was able to boast of some impressive statistics – such as no proposed fee or millage increases, and a crime rate that is the lowest in the city in 30 years.

The Mayor said top priority for funding will go for Police and Fire, followed by Parks and Recreation , where she says a top priority will be designing a new recreation center for the Sulpher Springs section of the City (roll tape#1 o.q.�recreation center�)

Stormwater runoff has always been a top concern among Tampa citizens, and the Mayor had positive news that funding is on the way to deal with one of the worst sections of the city to drive in when a storm hits, Dale Mabry Highway between Neptune Street and Henderson Boulevard (roll tape#2 o.q. “make that happen�)

Homeowners began paying on average triple the amount in stormwater fees last year, from $12 to $36, in paying for one of the most glaring problems with infrastructure in the city.

Iorio talked about other major projects that her Administration continues to work on, like 40th street and improving economically depressed East Tampa.

The Mayor used props in her presentation, hoisting up a piece of a water pipe to demonstrate how old and decrepit much of the city’s infrastructure is….She said the city will soon issue $32 million dollars in bonds to fix those water pipes (roll tape#3 o.q.�we are committed to it�)

Because the city has been doing relatively well economically, recently 2 Council members in recent months – Republicans Rose Ferlita and Sean Harrison – suggested that the city could give back some of that largesse in the form of a cut in property taxes.

But the Mayor and her staff immediately dismissed that notion, saying that the City has a serious problem in not having enough money in reserve to cope with the very real possibility of dealing with a hurricane.

Tampa is insured for only $30 million dollars in wind damage. So Iorio wants to add $5 million dollars in the 2007 budget into a growing reserves pot to cope with a potential catastrophe (roll tape#4 o.q.� .possible catastrophic event�)

The City already has $3 million in such a fund, and Iorio says she wants to get at least $15 million into it.

Iorio said that property tax revenue was healthy this year, but everything else was flat. The City will need $6 million for the Fire Department… She said that the City needs a new communications system for the Tampa Police Department - which will cost 11 to 13 million dollars and must be completed ….Federal grants for Homeland Security But 2-3 million of city money is required (roll tape#5 o.q. “must be done�)

After her presentatation, it didn’t appear at first blush that Iorio will have much trouble getting it through the City Council.

Councilmember Mary Alvarez (roll tape#6 o.q. “next year�)

Councilmember Rose Ferlita, running for a Hillsborough County Commission seat, has been the Mayor’s harshest critic on the Council, most recently blasting her for accepting a pay raise….But Ferlita was relatively passive after hearing Iorio’s presentation (roll tape#7 o.q.�and we’ll go from there�)

To read through the budget, you can go the City of Tampa’s website…That’s tampagov.net

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