TAMPA — City Council members are asking Mayor Pam Iorio to consider offering the general employees union a 5 percent pay cut to avoid layoffs — a move the mayor said isn't necessary.
Iorio also was asked to save the job of an employee who handles discrimination complaints.
The requests came at a budget session Tuesday. Declines in property tax, sales tax and other revenue mean the city is facing a $33 million shortfall in the 2011 budget, city finance director Bonnie Wise said. General and utility tax fund revenue is projected at $387 million, while expenses are expected to hit $420 million.
The biggest added expense: a $12 million increase in the city's contribution to the fire and police pension fund, necessary because of stock market losses. The city also will have to contribute $1.6 million from the general fund to cover operating losses in the parking division. Next year, that figure will rise to $7 million.
But a $20 million savings from 2010 — realized by eliminating dozens of jobs, consolidating operations and other cost-cutting measures — can be applied to next year's budget. The city will pull $13 million from its reserves to balance the budget.
Iorio said there's no need to consider a pay cut for the employees union.
"We are not going to consider a pay cut for anybody," she said.
It's not needed, she said, because the city isn't facing a large number of layoffs this year.
Still, council members urged Iorio to save the job of Jesus Loquias, who was among those affected when the mayor eliminated 32 jobs in March. His last day is Friday.
Fred Hearns, a retired director of the community affairs division where Loquias works, pleaded with the council to keep him on board. Loquias performs a vital role in the investigation of housing and employment discrimination complaints, he said.
Contracts with federal agencies provide reimbursements to the city for closing those cases.
Hearns, who retired in 2007, said he supervised more than 20 community affairs employees. The division now has fewer than 10 workers.
"Discrimination is still alive in this community," Hearns said. "This is a critical position."
Council members expressed concern that if the division is understaffed, discrimination cases might end up in court and ultimately cost the city plenty in legal fees. They agreed to send a letter to Iorio on Loquias' behalf.
"We're hoping she'll have the good will to work with us and save the job of a longtime employee," council member Mary Mulhern said. "It totally makes economic sense to do it."
Iorio, though, said that's not an option.
"We've been very careful about how we've dealt with layoffs," she said, noting that she has generally preserved jobs necessary to provide core services to the public. "I realize that there are perhaps some personal feelings that people might have about one person or another but that's not how we do layoffs."
The decision was based on seniority. Remaining employees can handle all cases, she said.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.