Tampa City Council rebukes Mayor to get to Budget cut by Mitch E. Perry09/29/06
The Tampa City Council rebuked Mayor Pam Iorio last night on how to get at their $725 million dollar budget, as they re-affirmed their decision 2 weeks ago to approve the cityâ€™s first property tax cut in 20 years.
But instead of cutting funds to non-profit organizations, as the Mayor had suggested would be the best way to deal with the budget, the Council voted to raid part of the cityâ€™s emergency reserve fund.
2 weeks ago the Council voted to give Tampa homeowners a break on their millage rates. But by doing so, it created a scramble by the Iorio administration to find a way to cut 3.35 million dollars from the budget. This will give homeowners a tax cut that amounts to roughly $25 per person for those whose home is worth $200,000.
Tampa City Finance Director Bonnie Wise addressed the Council and a packed City Hall chamber last night. She explained why the Mayor did not want to mess with the reserve fund (roll tape#1 o.q.â€? our sizeâ€?)
Before Mayor Iorio took office in 2003, the City had never set aside any money to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Last year, she established a $3 million dollar emergency fund. Finance Director Wise said the goal is to get to $15 million, which would be hurt by using those funds to provide tax relief (roll tape#2 o.q.â€?we need to make a stepâ€?)
But the Council, with the exception of Rose Ferlita and Sean Harrison, had never before in recent times given any indication that they wanted to cut the property tax. But a revolt that has spread thru the state as property values have escalated in recent years has spread like wildfire from the Panhandle to South Florida, and Tampa is no exception. So 2 weeks ago, the Council voted 4-2 to give property owners a break. Councilman Harrison seemed to blame his fellow councilmembers for not following his turn back then, saying it could have avoided last nightâ€™s predicament (roll tape#3 o.q. â€œtaken that opportunityâ€?
Last night, the council heard from more citizens to urge them to maintain that vote.
Terrence Moore said he wanted to salute the Council, but had nothing but disparaging things to say about the Mayorâ€™s staff (roll tape#4 o.q.â€?starve themâ€?)
The Mayorâ€™s proposal would have cut funds to such local nonprofits as the Ybor City Museum, the Florida Orchestra, and the Lowry Park Zoo. Judith Lisi with the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center said she could live with a nearly $40,000 cut from her budget, but said it was symbolic of how little the city values the arts (roll tape#5 o.q.â€? In arts and cultureâ€?)
Tampa Police Officer Marion Lewis has already announced his candidacy for Mayor against Pam Iorio next year. He criticized some of the Mayorâ€™s priorities (roll tape#6 o.q.â€?itâ€™s a waste of moneyâ€?)
Rod Gidand said the problems with property taxes is something needs a higher power that the City Council to contend with (roll tape#7 o.q.â€? For Floridaâ€?)
The Council ended up voting 5-1 to cut funds from the emergency fund, and not from the nonprofits. Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena was the lone dissenter (roll tape#8 o.q.â€?before usâ€?)
When voting for the issue 2 weeks ago, Councilman John Dingfelder said he considered â€˜symbolicâ€™. But Sean Harrison said combined with the Hillsborough County tax cut, not necessarily (roll tape#9 o.q.â€? $220â€?)