Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio tells City Council that the city must cut $27 million from next year's budget

The actual deficit is over $42 million, but the city will use nearly $15 million in reserves to close the gap.   Of the city's Fiscal Year 2010 budget, 55% of it goes towards salaries, and 15% for benefits (health care, pensions).

Then there's the state mandated cap on property taxes, which the Mayor has excoriated in recent media interviews as a problem that is severely hurting municipalities throughout Florida.  She did again today.

City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena suggested during the briefing that, "theoretically, we could use the fund balance (reserves) to make our budget whole."  Iorio replied that yes, theoretically that was possible, but,"I just can't do it.  I don't think it's in the best interests in the city to do it."  Iorio said it was extremely important to always keep 20% of reserves set aside in case of a catastrophic incident, and has helped the city maintain a healthy bond rating.     Saul-Sena she agreed.

As  far as where to cuts might come from, the Mayor did make one suggestion during the meeting this afternoon.  Calling it "just in time inventory," the mayor said the city currently has 4 warehouses that the city stocks that she called "old-fashioned," saying other government have contracted out such services.  "I would ask for you to consider this when my staff discusses this with you," though she said if they did not want to do that she would respect it.  "I feel compelled to bring this proposal before you."

The Mayor mentioned consolidation as a possibility with Hillsborough County, but she said that previous discussions with that body have not proven very "fruitful" in the past.

Commission Chair Thomas Scott said everything should be on the table in terms of possible cuts.

Federal stimulus money has been very fruitful for the city in terms of dollars that have come to Tampa in the last year, and Iorio said today that the city is working with a member of the law firm of Holland and Knight to investigate further opportunities to apply for more of that this year.

After the meeting, Councilman Charlie Miranda told CL that he could see the city start charging fees for services.   "I'm not surprised.....when things are bad, they're bad."  Miranda said the budget cuts are now getting to the point where the city hasn't been able to provide the normal level of services as you have before...in my mind, sooner or later it's going to cost the taxpayers for the use of the city product, whatever it might be."

This afternoon, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and her Revenue & Finance Director, Bonnie Wise, briefed members of the City Council on the city's financial status going into the 2011 fiscal  year.  The outlook: cut over $27.5 million by October 1.

Such meetings over the past few years have become commonplace at City Hall.  In the past three years, the city has cut $92 million from its operations and over 500 employee, but Iorio said today that this next $27 million could be the toughest yet.

"It's really rather amazing that we've had $92 million of cuts and we really haven't had people lined up at your council meetings week after week talking about things," she told six of the council members seated around a table (John Dingfelder was absent).  "But this next $27 million, you may hear more," she warned.

Wise said that the assumptions are that property taxes will drop 8.5% in the coming year, and there could be a sales tax decline of $10 million as well accounting for the reduced money coming in.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.