Tampa raises fees on recreation services

07/30/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council today voted to increase fees for many of its services, charged by the city’s parks and recreation department.

But they changed a provision so that if the Mayor wants to increase those fees in the future up to 5%, it must come back before the City Council and the public.

Karen Paulus is the director of the Tampa’s Parks and Recreation Department She repeated comments made earlier this week by Mayor Pam Iorio, who said that some fees needed to be raised because they haven’t been for years, and in some cases decades.

Services that will have their fees raised include facility rentals, permits, and day passes for pools, tennis courts and gymnasiums.

But Paulus said the city would also provide a sliding scale for those who may have trouble raising the cash to continue to use those services.

Some of the fee increases are more than 100%, such as the cost of a plot in a city cemetery rising from $500 to over $1100 dollars. The Tampa Tribune report that renting multipurpose rooms at the Barksdale Senior Center would now cost $200 an hour, up frm $100 an hour.

In addressing the need to raise fees, Commission Chair Thomas Scott referred to the passage a year and a half ago of a constitutional amendment that raised the homestead exemption in Florida, which while keeping property taxes lower for individuals, has cut off funding for local governments, and has severely affected the Parks & Rec department.

Department Chair Karen Paulus said the city will work with churches and social service agencies to help out those to be able to use city services.

But before the Council was set to approve the plan, Councilwoman Mary Mulhern objected to a provision in the ordinance that would allow the Parks & Recreation department to raise fees as much as 5% in the future, without coming before the Council or the public.

But City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena she couldn’t support Mulhern’s motion to change that provision of the Ordinance, saying the rate hikes were not excessive.

Councilman Charlie Miranda agreed with Mary Mulhern that the powers of the council should not be given away.

The Council voted 4-2 to support Mulhern’s motion to strip the provision of the Ordiance that would allow the Mayor’s office to unilaterally raise park & rec fees of up to 5% annually. Councilmembers Linda Saul-Sena And Gwen Miller dissented. The Council then went on to vote unanimously to approve the fee increases overall for this year.

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