Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn proposes leaner budget without layoffs or millage increase
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08/09/12 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

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Thursday morning Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled his proposed fiscal year 2013 budget to City Council; he calls it “Changing Tampa’s Economic DNA.” It’s based on a small-government philosophy, avoiding a property tax increase, without laying off any current employees.

“You should be proud of this staff behind me. They have done an amazing job in some very difficult times crafting this budget and putting this together on top of dealing with all of the other things that they deal with everyday. The result is it’s a smaller government, it’s a more efficient government, and it’s a leaner government. The key for us is that when we come out of the recession, and I truly believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel, we need to make sure that we keep our government small. And any additional increases in valuation get reinvested in infrastructure and projects that are going to create jobs and create opportunities. But I think all things considered, in spite of that crushing deficit, to be able to put together a budget that does not lay anybody off, that does not increase taxes, and that rewards our great employees is a compliment to the staff that’s behind me and that you deal with everyday. This is the new normal.”

Buckhorn said Tampa’s millage rate would not increase. That means a resident with an average home worth $157,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay $613 in city property tax.

“Another something we should be proud of, we have not raised the millage rate since 1988. I was there the last time it happened. As you see from this chart in 2007 our rate was 6.5390 which is what it had been since 1988. The roll back rate puts us now at 5.7326. There will be no millage increase this year. I think that’s something that all of us should be proud of because the folks that sent us here expect us to live within our means in spite of the ongoing financial crisis.”

Tampa has faced what Buckhorn called a serious revenue decline over the last several years due to declining property values and a state amendment that increased the homestead exemption. The proposed budget closes a $28 million deficit through what his administration characterized as “reducing operating costs and shrinking the size of government.”

“This year’s budget is a total of $804.4 million. The total budget increase is about $45 million from fiscal year 2012. That is largely due to enterprise fund activity including in this amount is the $11 million we got from the federal government for the RiverWalk grant. In addition storm water and waste water have some capital projects ongoing.”

Buckhorn said two departments in particular -- solid waste and parking -- are a financial drain.

Despite the revenue woes, Buckhorn is proposing a one-time bonus of 2 percent for city employees who didn’t get a raise last year.

The Mayor predicts revenue from the convention center will get a boost this year from the Republican National Convention.

“We have been all hands on deck to get ready for Tampa’s coming out party, because other than the Olympics, this convention will be the 2nd most viewed television event in the entire world this year. This is our time to shine as a community. And this has been a lift for us as a city, unlike anything we have ever done. … We’re going to put on one heck of a show. We’re going to put on one heck of a show. And we’re going to tell the world Tampa’s story. Will there be incidents? Absolutely there will. Have we tried to anticipate virtually everything we could? You bet we have. We’ve trained harder for this than anything we’ve ever done. And I think we are ready and it’s game time. And all of us, particularly [Police] Chief [Jane] Castor, are ready to go play.”

The convention begins August 27.

There will be public hearings before a budget is approved later this year.

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