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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Buckhorn's budget proposes no layoffs, keeps two campaign promises to police

18

July

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Monday he will propose a 2011-12 city budget that would eliminate 21 vacant positions but includes no proposed layoffs of city employees.

Tampa’s property tax rate would remain unchanged, but an increase in the city’s franchise fee for Tampa Electric would mean that TECO customers would see an estimated $1.50-per-month increase in their power bills.

The proposed budget includes step increases for city police and firefighters — something Buckhorn told police officers he said he would support during his campaign for mayor — and merit increases for other city employees. Fulfilling a second campaign promise, he also is proposing no reduction in the number of sworn police officers. Tampa has 996 authorized police officers.

Sworn in on April 1, Buckhorn was heading into the coming fiscal year with a $34.5 million revenue shortfall, but he and city budget officials said they expect to be able to cover most of that with:

• $9 million from the carry-forward of money that was budgeted for this year but is not expected to be spent.

• $7 million from the increase in the TECO franchise fee.

• $3 million from the elimination of open positions, consolidation of some city operations, the reduction in pre-employment health screenings and other efficiencies. The 21 jobs to be eliminated are in purchasing and contract administration (one each), code enforcement and growth management (two each), revenue and finance (three), parks and recreation (four) and public works (eight).

• $2 million from a stepped-up effort to collect on unpaid EMS and code enforcement liens.

• $2 million in new revenue from red-light traffic enforcement cameras expected to go into operation in November.

• $2 million in higher-than-expected revenue from the Tampa Convention Center.

• $2 million the city plans to realize by using community investment tax revenues instead of general funds to buy police vehicles.

• $1.5 million because property tax values declined 4 percent, not the 6 percent that officials had originally feared.

“I never thought I’d be excited about a negative 4 percent,” Buckhorn said. “In this environment, I’m ecstatic.”

The proposed budget also would use $6 million of the $102 million in reserves that former Mayor Pam Iorio built up during her eight years in office.

Buckhorn is scheduled to present his proposed budget to the City Council, which must approve it, on July 28, though the council will discuss some of what he is proposing at workshop on Thursday.

The council has scheduled public hearings on the budget for 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 7 and Sept. 21. Once approved, the new budget will run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2012.

[Last modified: Monday, July 18, 2011 10:55am]

    

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