Arts, zoo spared budget slashing

Mayor Pam Iorio proposes smaller cuts for nonprofits.

Published July 11, 2007

TAMPA - The Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Homeless Coalition, Humane Society and other nonprofit organizations won't take as big a hit as expected in this year's city budget cuts.

Mayor Pam Iorio on Tuesday proposed cutting city funding of the organizations by 10 to 20 percent, which should save the city about $467,000.

As a result of tax reform measures that are shrinking local government revenue, Iorio originally indicated she would yank all funding to nonprofits, which last year totalled nearly $3.4-million.

But in a memo to the City Council on Tuesday, Iorio proposed reducing most nonprofit funding by 20 percent. Organizations that operate on city-owned property, such as the Performing Arts Center, zoo, Tampa Theatre and Florida Aquarium, will face a 10 percent decrease.

Judy Lisi, executive director of the Performing Arts Center, said she was relieved to learn of Iorio's decision to maintain some funding for nonprofits.

"We were just on pins and needles. A 100 percent cut would have just killed all of the city's cultural institutions," Lisi said. "We all work on shoestring budgets to begin with."

Last year, the city gave $790,000 to the Performing Arts Center. Iorio's proposal would reduce that amount by $79,000.

But Rayme Nuckles, CEO of the Homeless Coalition, said the 20 percent decrease would be extremely painful for his organization, which last year received $55,000 from the city.

"Any decrease in our funding will have an impact," he said.

St. Petersburg officials on Tuesday agreed to slash funding of nonprofits from $2.77-million to $500,000.

State property tax reform is forcing Tampa to trim about $20-million from next year's proposed budget. Last month, Iorio announced the elimination of 369 city jobs, which she said will save the city about $15-million. The remaining $5-million will come from operational expenses.

Iorio will present her budget to the Tampa City Council on Aug. 9.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.