TAMPA — The City Council gave initial approval Monday night to Mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed $831 million city budget, but suggested the plan has a hole in its priorities the exact size and shape of the historic Cuscaden Pool.
"To just leave it, I think, is fiscally irresponsible," council member Mary Mulhern said of the long-closed city pool north of Ybor City. "We need to get it fixed."
After a line of residents from the V.M. Ybor neighborhood protested that the current budget at least mentioned Cuscaden as a candidate for a major upgrade, but next year's budget does not, the council voted to ask for an Oct. 3 report on why the pool was closed, whether the city has tried to recover money from the last contractor to work on it and an analysis of what it would cost to fix.
The Art Deco-style pool was built in 1937 and closed in 1997 because of leaks. It got a $2.5 million renovation in 2005 but closed again because of leaks in 2010. It has not been open for four summers. In February, city officials estimated repairs would cost at least $1.3 million. Buckhorn said in July he is leery of sinking more money in the pool, which he said has a "very, very inefficient" above-ground design that could start leaking again in a year.
But V.M. Ybor residents noted that an above-ground design did not stop the city from proceeding with a $2.25 million renovation under way at the Roy Jenkins Pool on Davis Islands.
City Council members picked at a few other parts of the mayor's budget — the lack of new spending for programs to fight homelessness, for example — but ended up okaying the same property tax rate as this year.
Under that rate — about $5.73 in city taxes for every $1,000 of assessed taxable value — an owner of a house assessed at $180,000 and standard homestead exemptions would pay $745 in city taxes next year.
The final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 25. The city's 2013-14 fiscal year starts Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2014.