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Tampa City Council gives first approval to 2011 budget

TAMPA — City Council members voted 6-1 Tuesday to tentatively approve a proposed budget and property tax rate for 2011.

The lone dissent was cast by council member Charlie Miranda, who said he agreed with the budget philosophy but couldn't support the practice.

"I'm not going to propose increases in salaries and at the same time I'm laying 235 people off," Miranda said afterward.

City budget officials reduced personnel costs to $209 million for 2011, a figure lower than 2007's budget. But some staffers will receive step increases, which the council froze last year.

Also, struggling stock markets have forced Tampa to contribute $40.6 million to pension funds, a $29.3 million increase.

In addition to layoffs, vacant positions were removed for a total of 673 jobs eliminated, said finance director Bonnie Wise.

Budget savings also came from consolidating city functions and changing some operations. However, the budget increased by 4.4 percent from last year, and $12 million of the cost will have to be covered by the city's reserves.

A citizens budget advisory committee urged council members to further pare the budget by considering privatizing services, deferring at least $10 million in projects, reviewing employee salaries and reducing the tax rate.

"It's not fiscally prudent to balance the budget by going to reserves," said Mark Anderson, a committee member.

The council supported maintaining a property tax rate of $5.73 per $1,000 of assessed taxable value. That means a person with a $157,000 home and a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay about $613 in city taxes.

A final public hearing and vote is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 28.

Tampa City Council gives first approval to 2011 budget 09/14/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 10:57pm]
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