Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Personnel costs rising fast for Tampa

TAMPA — With the city facing a possible shortfall next year, officials need to get personnel costs under control, Mayor Pam Iorio told the City Council in a special budget meeting Tuesday.

Property and utility tax revenue continues to decline, and the amount the city must contribute to pension funds is likely to increase from $14-million this year to $21-million next year.

The city is required to maintain the pension fund's value at a set level, and the stock market collapse has eroded its worth, making higher contributions necessary, city finance director Bonnie Wise told the council.

All these strains on city finances mean Tampa could be in a $35-million in the hole in the fund used to pay salaries and benefits for the 2010 budget.

That deficit can only be partially offset by dipping into the city's reserves without seriously depleting them.

This year the city tapped reserves for $2.5-million to make up the shortfall. Next year, officials expect to need $10-million.

Meanwhile, paychecks and benefits make up the largest percentage of the city's general fund.

"It's really salaries and wages that has to be addressed," Wise said.

The assessment came while Iorio is in the midst of contract negotiations with both the firefighters union and the general employees union. If Iorio fails to reach agreement with the unions, the contracts could end up going to the council for approval.

Iorio and the general employees have agreed on a salary package that includes a 3.5 percent cost-of-living raise and merit raises of up to 3 percent.

But they're set to go to a mediator to hammer out the length of the contract.

The union wants a three-year contract; Iorio has agreed to just one year.

"Three-year contracts just don't make sense in this economic environment," Iorio told the council.

Tough negotiating also is under way with firefighters.

Just four months ago, the council voted unanimously to give firefighters 4 percent cost-of-living raises and merit increases averaging 5 percent a year. The council also instituted biweekly bonuses of $30 for emergency medical technicians and $110 for paramedics.

The council approval came after Iorio and the firefighters reached an impasse in contract discussions that lasted nine months. The firefighters' contract expired in October 2007.

This time around, firefighters are asking for a 5 percent cost-of-living raise, merit raises averaging 3.5 percent and the same bonuses.

Although the two sides agree on the merit raises, Iorio is offering only a 3 percent cost-of-living bump. She also wants to reduce the bonuses.

"Our rate of pay raises is too high and doesn't mesh with the times we're in," Iorio told the council.

In an interview after the meeting, Larry Parker, president of the firefighters union, said its request is reasonable.

"They want to reduce benefits for the high-risk firefighters," he said. "Firefighters and police officers are not the general public. We are not sitting behind desks. We are out protecting the life and property of the citizens every day."

Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida, said the city's offer to both unions appeared generous given the current economic environment.

"You'd be really hard pressed to find anywhere in the state somebody getting a deal like that unless you happen to be a professional athlete," he said.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Personnel costs rising fast for Tampa 12/09/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  2. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  3. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  4. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  5. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.