Tampa budget wins initial approval

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed $765 million budget won the first of two votes of approval from the City Council Wednesday night, but not before residents made pitches for pools and parks.

Buckhorn proposes spending $6.5 million on pools in the next three years. Davis Islands residents asked the city to fix Roy Jenkins Pool, closed for repairs in 2009.

"The last time I swam in Jenkins pool I was 4 years old," second-grader Stella Dougherty told council members. "Now I am 7 years old, and I would really like to get back in there and swim."

But beyond some general discussion of recreation fees, neither residents nor council members found much to take issue with in Buckhorn's budget, which is $34.7 million less than this year's budget.

The city's property tax rate would remain unchanged at $5.73 in taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value. The average homeowner with standard exemptions would pay $613 in city taxes.

A proposed increase in the city's franchise fee for Tampa Electric would cost the utility's city customers another $1.50 per month on their power bills. That increase is expected to generate $7 million in new revenue next year.

The proposed budget would eliminate 21 vacant positions and carry forward $9 million that was budgeted for this year but is not expected to be spent.

Also on Wednesday, Buckhorn made two policy changes aimed at reducing future personnel spending for administrative and professional employees who do not belong to one of the city's three unions.

With the first change, non-union supervisors and professional employees who are hired after Oct. 1 will no longer get annual longevity awards. (The city eliminated the awards for managers in 2008.)

The awards, based on years of service, range from $500 to $1,500 and are paid after employees reach five years of continuous service. The city pays out $3.1 million a year in longevity awards, of which $588,500 goes to non-union employees.

In addition, Buckhorn cut sick leave retirement payouts in half for non-union managers, supervisors and professional employees hired after Oct. 1. Currently employees with 10 years of continuous service receive half of their accumulated sick leave in a lump sum when they retire.

In the future, non-union employees hired after Oct. 1 will receive one-fourth of their accumulated sick leave when they retire. The city pays retiring employees $2 million to $3 million a year in unused sick leave.

.Fast facts

One more vote

The final public hearing on the city budget is scheduled for 5:01 p.m. Sept. 21 in the City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

Tampa budget wins initial approval 09/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 9:05am]

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