Tampa faces prospect of layoffs and service cuts to trim budget by $27 million

TAMPA — Tough economic times continue to slice into the city of Tampa's budget.

This year that means layoffs and an end to some city services, Mayor Pam Iorio told the City Council on Monday. The city needs to trim $27 million from the bottom line as it prepares for the 2011 fiscal year.

Cuts in the previous three years have come from layoffs, but most of those were vacant jobs, resulting in 500 fewer positions.

This year, though, departments will have to identify programs that can be cut. With layoffs inevitable, Iorio said, it's not fair to require the remaining staff to maintain the same services.

"There is a growing limit to what the staff can accomplish and do it in a happy and productive way," Iorio said. "They're continually asked to do more with less."

In an interview after her meeting with the council, Iorio said she won't target services that a large number of people depend upon.

"But there are services that some people just like and those are going to be some of the services that will be diminished," Iorio said. "We'll have to look at parks and rec. We have to look at not what tens of thousands of people use, but something that maybe only 30 people use or 40 people use."

The parks department has already come under fire for raising fees to make up lost revenue. Families in low-income neighborhoods say that's pricing them out of some activities, including after-school programs.

Iorio told the council she would take a look at the fees, which already increased revenue to the city by more than $283,000 between Oct. 1 and Feb. 1.

"We obviously still want children to be going to the after-school programs," she said.

Preliminary figures show a $10.3 million drop in the city's property tax revenue and a $700,000 decline in sales tax revenue. Meanwhile, salary costs are increasing by $2.4 million, and contributions to the police and firefighter pension fund are projected to rise by $5 million.

"The first thing we're going to take a huge whack at is the operational (budget) before we start on the personnel," said Iorio, who declined to say how many people might lose their jobs.

She did, though, ask the council to consider privatizing operations of the four warehouses where the city stores supplies. Those warehouses employ about 24 people.

"Does it affect city employees? Absolutely," she said. "If we say no we don't want to affect that group, there's a whole other group that's affected."

Iorio could not say how much the city would save by outsourcing warehouse management.

The council in 2008 rejected Iorio's proposal to privatize some security and janitorial services.

Iorio also took a swipe at state lawmakers at the meeting, saying the city won't recover from the budget slump of recent years even when the economy turns around and property tax revenue starts increasing. That's because the 2007 state-mandated property tax reform means the city's budget can grow only at the rate that the state's per capita income grows. That has ranged since 1990 from a high of nearly 7 percent in 2005 to less than 1 percent in 2008. So even if property tax revenue jumps, Iorio said, the city can't include the full amount in its budget.

Council Chairman Tom Scott asked if there is any way to change the policy.

"I'm concerned about what the state Legislature has done," he said. "It appears that it is a big issue for local governments."

Iorio said she would like to see pressure put on state lawmakers.

"I'm just not sure there's that will in Tallahassee to look at local governments and think that we need the help," Iorio said. "In fact, we're really not asking for any help. All we're asking is to determine our own destiny with regards to revenue."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa faces prospect of layoffs and service cuts to trim budget by $27 million 02/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 22, 2010 11:22pm]

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