Iorio proposes $728-million budget
The spending plan would add $5-million to Tampa's emergency reserve and fund neighborhood improvements.
By JANET ZINK
Published August 3, 2006
TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio’s proposed budget for next year would pump $5-million into the city’s emergency reserve in case of a hurricane or other catastrophe, as well as add fire department and parks personnel.
Her proposal to the City Council Thursday on the 2006-07 budget also highlighted police department needs and neighborhood improvements such as sidewalks and street repaving.
After holding steady at $674-million for the past two years, the proposed city budget is $728-million, with no increases in the property tax rate or fees for city services such as garbage collection, water or sewers.
Most of the extra revenue instead comes from loans and $28.7-million increase in property tax collections because of the rising value of real estate.
Iorio’s budget includes funding for nine new fire rescue workers and seven more firefighters, two additional police sergeants in New Tampa and $1-million for furnishings and communication equipment in the District III police station now under construction in East Tampa.
Iorio allocated $6.2-million for neighborhood improvements, a budget item that has increased $3.6-million since she took office in 2003.
“I still think it’s too low,” she said. “When people pay tax dollars, they want to see improvements in their neighborhoods.”
Iorio also touted ongoing drainage improvement projects.
By the end of this fiscal year, Iorio said, the city will break ground on a project designed to alleviate flooding on S Dale Mabry Highway between Henderson Boulevard and Neptune Street.
“It’s probably our worst flooding problem in the city,” she said, noting that it’s on an evacuation route.
The Southwest Florida Regional Water Management District is contributing $8.5-million to that project, and the state is contributing $500,000, she said.
Iorio also pledged to keep upgrades to 40th Street going despite skyrocketing construction costs for roads.
The emergency reserve is necessary because the city is paying more for property insurance and getting less coverage, she said. Premiums increased $1-million this year, but coverage was reduced from $500-million to $230-million. Of that, only $30-million covers storm damage.
The value of the city’s properties tops $1.8-billion, she said.
“We are essentially self-insured,” Iorio said.
The mayor established the emergency reserve last year, earmarking $3-million. This year’s allocation takes the fund to $8-million. Her goal is $15-million.
The city also has a general reserve of $8.3-million for other unexpected expenses.
Iorio ended her presentation by talking about future needs.
The Fire Department will need an additional $6-million in the next five years to operate new stations, and the New Tampa gymnastics center, slated to break ground this year, will cost money to staff. The Tampa Police Department also needs a new communications system that is compatible with the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office. That will cost the city up to $3-million. And future road upgrades on 40th Street, south of Gandy Boulevard and Cross Creek Boulevard will cost millions.
“I bring up these points because it’s all part of the bigger picture,” she said.
Council members generally praised Iorio’s budget.
Shawn Harrison mentioned that during budget hearings he is likely to bring up the possibility of rolling back the city’s property tax rate.
“We ought to be able to give a little bit back,” Harrison said.
But Harrison and other council members praised the increase in emergency reserves and improvements made in their neighborhoods. Council member Linda Saul-Sena called the budget “excellent,” and Mary Alvarez said she was “proud” and “grateful” for Iorio and her staff.
“My colleagues are really pouring it on to you this morning,” remarked Council Chairman Gwen Miller.
Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for Sept. 14 and Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.