City improvements in parks, roads, housing, and public safety are all included in the mayor’s budget proposal that would raise Tampa’s millage rate by 16%. Last night at a budget workshop, Tampa City Council tried to strike a balance between avoiding adding costs to homeowners experiencing rising costs from all directions, and funding housing as the city experiences rising homelessness.
The proposed rate increase would cost the average household an additional $20 per month. Tampa City Council heard from many residents opposed to a property tax increase, and Council Chair Guido Maniscalco was concerned that landlords will simply pass the added cost onto renters.
Maniscalco: “Is it just in turn going to continue burdening the renter? That’s because the landlord has to pay. The landlord’s gonna, you know, is the one that’s paying the property taxes and the maintenance, on top of rising insurance rates, and then having to answer to the bank. Is it counterproductive?”
Travis: “You know, short answer, no, you can’t afford not to invest in affordable housing.”
That’s Nicole Travis. She’s the City of Tampa Administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity. She said without using the long term funding provided by a millage rate increase, the community will just end up paying more for housing in the future.
“If you do not invest in housing. Now, it will not be any better next year, your community will suffer significantly from the lack of housing affordability in this community and it will be a detriment to this economy.”
Councilmember Lynn Hurtak pointed out that not having available funds to even to purchase temporary housing has caused the city to miss opportunities for getting people off the street.
Hurtak: “So we could have gotten 237 units that we could have used short term to get families out of their cars and off of the streets?”
Travis: “That’s right.”
Hurtak: “Because I’m getting emails about homelessness, if we had a place to put them for just a short term, that’s 237 rooms that can fit families and other people. Because right now, none of our shelters take families.”
Travis: “That’s right.”
And while the importance of funding public safety and roads were highlighted as integral aspects of the proposed budget as well, if council decides to cut down on the millage rate increase, Hurtak said she’s not willing put housing on the chopping block.
“We need places for people to live. Otherwise we’re dealing with homeless issues, and that’s something that the police are going to have to handle. And police…we don’t have anywhere to put those people. You can’t jail them for being homeless. Where do you put them? So, and you know, it just spirals. So housing really is the root of everything.”
There’s a community workshop on August 23rd from 5:30-7:30 at the Police Athletic League to allow the public to comment on the budget.
The City will likely decide in September on its final budget. For WMNF News, I’m Josh Holton in Tampa