Tampa budget workshop – fewer cuts in 2009 than last year

06/24/08 Seán Kinane
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This morning the Tampa City Council held their second workshop on the city’s fiscal year 2009 budget. They received proposed budgets from several departments, including Police, Fire, Neighborhood Services, and Growth Management. Tampa’s Police Chief Steve Hogue said his department would need 132 million dollars next year and would slightly reduce personnel to 1318 employees. “I have submitted a reduction of about 16 positions this year.”

Hogue said fuel costs are leading Tampa’s Police to consider some vehicles that get better mileage.

Dennis Jones is the city’s Fire Chief and said his department’s proposed budget is actually larger than last year’s. “We have submitted a budget for 647 positions, the same as last year, with a modest 1.5% increase.”

But that doesn’t include additional operating expenses of over one million dollars, including adding seven firefighters that Jones is proposing. The fire department is exploring grants to cover some portion of that, Jones said.

City Council member John Dingfelder was concerned that city residents hear about the full extent of the city’s budget woes.

“When folks in this community say they want tax cuts, that’s fine. But they need to know what the ramifications are in neighborhood services.”

Neighborhood Services Administrator Santiago Corrada said that despite budget cuts, there would be few, if any, layoffs. “But in our programs, we’re not losing any employees from last year to this year.”

Karen Palus is the director of Parks and Recreation, where many recent cuts have occurred.

“Our total budget from ’08 was 36,075,080 [dollars] and we are going to a new threshold budget which is currently scheduled for 35,348,785 [dollars], which is a reduction of a little over 700 thousand dollars and it does reduce us by 27 positions.”

WMNF asked Bonnie Wise, Tampa’s Finance Director, about the budget recommendations. “Last year we did cut a number of positions and this year we’re going to have to cut some as well.”

This Thursday the Council will consider a new city code that could complement their recently passed green resolution to encourage environmental sustainability. Cindy Miller is the city’s director of Growth Management and Development Services.

“We will have a team around the city so that green initiatives are going to become a matter of life, not just something that’s new and different, it’s going to be something that will, sort of, permeate the organization.”

On Monday in Miami, the nation’s mayors voted to phase out the use of bottled water by city governments and use tap water instead in order to reduce waste of resources and money. But Tampa’s Mayor Pam Iorio is opposed to the idea of doing away with bottled water. Several members of the city council support an end to purchasing bottled water, including Mary Mulhern.

“The city is actually buying bottled water to use in the city and I’m not exactly sure where we’re using them all, but we’re spending 31 thousand dollars. … They just create a lot of waste and waste of plastic and the water is not safer. Councilman Miranda was right, if you want to drink clean, safe water, water out of the tap is much better.”

The next Tampa City Council meeting is Thursday at 9 am in City Hall. In addition to the green city code, the council will consider approving a mowing contract with a private company that would result in the loss of city positions that are currently vacant.

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