Sunday, November 11, 2018
News

Tampa’s budget is lean and straightforward this year, but trouble may be looming

TAMPA — Tampa City Council members have reacted to Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s cautious budget with their own hedge, saying the city’s financial outlook could turn if the national and regional economy goes south in the next few months.

Buckhorn has said he won’t ask for a property tax increase or borrow from the city’s $91.2 million reserve fund to balance the city’s roughly $1 billion budget.

Instead, he’ll eliminate vacancies, delay equipment purchases like vehicles and put off maintenance on city-owned property.

"This budget doesn’t have a lot of frills in it. There won’t be any new projects of any significance," Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times last week.

Buckhorn will make his formal budget presentation to City Council on July 19. It will be his eighth and last one before he leaves office next year because of term limits.

Despite a projected windfall in property tax revenue, Buckhorn has asked most departments to trim 3 percent from their budgets. Many cuts might end up being smaller, he said. The police department may pare back by only 1 percent.

Residents shouldn’t notice, the mayor said. Library hours will remain the same. Parks and swimming pools will stay open.

"Services won’t be cut," Buckhorn said.

Sonya Little, the city’s chief financial officer, briefed council members last week on the broad strokes of the city’s fiscal health.

A strong economy and buoyant stock market have helped reduce pension fund obligations and delivered a 10 percent bump in property values, reducing an estimated deficit from $13.5 million to $5 million, she said.

It wasn’t all good news, however. A $6.8 million payment to retire 1990-era bonds for the city’s police headquarters, substations and fire equipment will be due in the fiscal year beginning Oct.1.

Next year, that payment more than doubles to $13.6 million ans remains at that level for several years. And if voters statewide approve an expansion of the homestead exemption it could slash city revenues by another $5 million, Little said.

If the economy tanks when the city is struggling to pay off those debts, and if additional cuts are needed to make up for revenue lost by an expanded homestead exemption, things could get tough.

"The deficit widens in out years, until 2022," Little said.

How much to worry depends less on Tampa’s economy than it does on the region and nation.

"It could change at any minute," said council member Charlie Miranda.

"It could be worse, it could also be better than what we’re expecting," said council member Harry Cohen, who is running for mayor. "Almost every category is dependent on the economy. We’re completely at the mercy of the national and local economy."

Last year, Buckhorn’s budget became a sore point for council members who said they wouldn’t have authorized $35.5 million for a Julian B. Lane Park makeover if they knew they were going to be presented with a tax increase. After hours of debate then, the council approved a tax increase that raised the average bill $91.

"There’s no Julian B. Lane this year," council member Guido Maniscalco told the Times. "It’s nothing like last year. I think (approval) will be quick and easy."

The City Council will hold two public hearings on the budget in September. A balanced budget must be approved by the end of that month.

Buckhorn will leave office May 1. That means the next mayor, facing all those daunting economic challenges, will have just a few months to hammer out a new budget.

Aside from the outstanding debt, police, fire and blue-collar union contracts will all be up for renewal next year.

"The new mayor," Buckhorn said, "as soon as they hit the door here, will have negotiations with the unions as well as the normal budget pressures."

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459. [email protected]

Comments
Amid Florida recounts, frustration grows for those whose votes didn’t count

Amid Florida recounts, frustration grows for those whose votes didn’t count

Across counties, states and even countries, some Floridians struggled to get ballots or cast votes this election.
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Feeling Lucky? Specialty grocer Lucky's Market proposed for central Pasco

Feeling Lucky? Specialty grocer Lucky's Market proposed for central Pasco

Lucky's Market would fill the space vacated by Winn-Dixie at State Road 54 and Collier Parkway in Land O' Lakes.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Wrong-way DUI crash on Suncoast Parkway seriously injures Citrus County man

Wrong-way DUI crash on Suncoast Parkway seriously injures Citrus County man

A Levy County man faces a charge of DUI after he drove his RV the wrong way on the Suncoast Parkway in Citrus County and crashed head-on into a pickup truck early Sunday morning.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Devastation as deadly California blaze tallies grim stats

Devastation as deadly California blaze tallies grim stats

As wildfires continued to rage on both ends of California, officials released another grim statistic: six more dead in a swath of Northern California wiped out by fire.
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: Where we stand on recounts; Will school boards take their case to taxpayers?; Red zone failures key in Bucs loss

The Daystarter: Where we stand on recounts; Will school boards take their case to taxpayers?; Red zone failures key in Bucs loss

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• We’ll have partly cloudy skies with isolated showers this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures today will be in the mid to upper 80s. • Don’t look n...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Will a recount change anything in the Florida statewide races?

Will a recount change anything in the Florida statewide races?

A recount that erases a margin of more than a few hundred votes would be virtually unprecedented.
Updated: 3 hours ago
As recounts rage on, Ron DeSantis begins transition to power

As recounts rage on, Ron DeSantis begins transition to power

Even though the governor's race is being recounted, DeSantis' team isn't wasting any time.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida voters are saying yes when school districts ask for more money. Is that a good thing?

Florida voters are saying yes when school districts ask for more money. Is that a good thing?

Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins takes a clear message from last week's election, which saw many Floridians vote to tax themselves more to help public schools meet rising costs.People see the challenges firsthand and "they know t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Linda Lerner steps away after 28 years on the Pinellas School Board. ‘I wanted to make things better for everybody’

Linda Lerner steps away after 28 years on the Pinellas School Board. ‘I wanted to make things better for everybody’

Linda Lerner, one of Florida's longest-serving school officials with nearly three decades on the Pinellas County School Board, will step down Tuesday, leaving her seat for one of three new members elected last week.The decision was difficult, Lerner ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Weekend rewind: Florida recount begins; a tropical wave could strengthen by midweek; and more

Weekend rewind: Florida recount begins; a tropical wave could strengthen by midweek; and more

Catching you up on what happened over the weekend.
Published: 11/12/18