Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn proposes $831 million budget for 2014

TAMPA — Thanks to Tampa's first increase in property tax revenue in seven years, Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday proposed an $830.9 million budget with a 2 percent raise for all city employees and reinforcements for overburdened code enforcement officers.

"In spite of this recession, it's been a good year," Buckhorn told the City Council.

Property taxes are the city's biggest single source of revenue. From 2007 to this year, they have fallen from $166.2 million to $115.7 million.

Next year, however, property tax revenues are expected to rise to $123 million, fueled by a recovering housing market and growth in real estate values. Commercial permits are projected to rise 20 percent compared to last year and residential permits are up 25 percent.

The city's tax rate would remain at about $5.73 in city taxes for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property value. That means a taxpayer with a house assessed at $180,000 and standard homestead exemptions would pay $745 in city taxes next year.

Buckhorn's proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, is $26.5 million more than this year. Driving that 3.3 percent increase are:

• Personnel costs that include a proposed 2 percent raise for all employees, an 8 percent increase in health care costs, a 6 percent increase in pension contributions and expected increases in fuel and electricity costs.

• $3.5 million in spending to improve the city's network of utility pipes, the David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility and the McKay Bay trash incinerator.

When officials started putting together next year's budget, they faced a revenue shortfall estimated at $19.2 million.

Contributing to that gap was a $2 million drop in revenue from red-light cameras, a one-time payment on a wide-ranging technology upgrade and a $3.4 million drop in convention center revenues. The falloff at the convention center followed cuts in federal spending that reduced the number of military events booked at the center.

"For anyone to say that what happens in Washington is irrelevant, it affects us; it affects us every day," Buckhorn said.

Facing that gap, Buckhorn welcomed the increase in property tax revenues, but still told city departments to find savings that would amount to 5 percent of this year's spending.

As he did the past two years, Buckhorn proposes to draw on city reserves to balance the budget. Officials say that even after using $7.5 million in reserves, City Hall's rainy day fund will stand at more than $95 million. That's equal to 25 percent of the city's spending — above the 20 percent demanded by bond rating agencies.

The total number of city employees would drop very slightly to 4,412, but Buckhorn does propose to add two code enforcement officers, bringing the number of authorized code enforcement positions to 31.

In addition, the city has moved to fill two vacant code enforcement positions and will cross-train five environmental inspectors to write code enforcement citations. That will give code enforcement a total of nine additional bodies, Buckhorn said.

Earlier this year, Buckhorn reorganized code enforcement and the city's Clean Team to be more focused on blight, but the mission was given added urgency this month by the rental property scandal involving former Tampa Port Authority chairman William "Hoe" Brown.

Brown resigned from the port authority after the Tampa Bay Times disclosed that he had crammed unpermitted trailers onto land he owns on the northern edge of Seminole Heights and was charging tenants for roach-infested units that the city's code enforcement director called "deplorable."

Buckhorn told council members he understood that they want an increased emphasis on code enforcement.

"I know it's a priority for you," he said. "I made it a priority in this budget."

Council member Frank Reddick, who has complained about code enforcement for months, described Buckhorn's proposals as "a fresh start," but "this is just a start."

Reddick said he plans to propose an ordinance requiring more coordination between police, code enforcement and the city's legal department.

"When law enforcement is going out there for disturbance calls," he said, "they need to be the eyes and ears for code enforcement."

Comments
The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

For the second straight week, the Buccaneers had the ball in the final minutes of a tie game.For the second straight week, they could not finish.As disappointing as that might be, they have a larger problem, and one that has existed all season: The B...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

ST. LOUIS ó This showdown was supposed to be about the best team in the East versus the best in the West. In reality, the Lightningís 3-0 win over the Blues on Tuesday night pretty much came down to this:Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago

Lottery resultsLottery numbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Tues., Dec. 12, midday:90 578 4984e_SRit30459Tues., Dec. 12, evening:85 659 2558e_SRit95745Fantasy 5Tue...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 12

Tuesdayís scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 5, Tarpon Springs 0Palm Harbor U. 8, Alonso 0Boys soccerShorecrest 2, Indian Rocks Chr. 0Palm Harbor U. 3, Alonso 0Girls basketballNortheast 65, Dixie Hollins 25...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Defendant asks jurors: Do I look like Charles Manson?

Defendant asks jurors: Do I look like Charles Manson?

LARGO ó Daniel Richards, on trial in the murder of his 83-year-old mother, began his own criminal defense on Tuesday by asking a few questions to the pool of prospective jurors."If you were accused of killing your mother, would you want to represent ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Career Q&A: Two bosses who donít care for each other

Career Q&A: Two bosses who donít care for each other

Q: I seem to be caught between two high-level managers who really donít like each other. One is a director, the other is a vice president, and I am an assistant to both. Whenever the director stops by my desk to chat, she makes critical remarks about...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

St. Pete losing two assistant police chiefs; one will join Rays

ST. PETERSBURG ó Two assistant police chiefs are stepping down next month, leaving two of the three second-in-command jobs vacant at the St. Petersburg Police Department.Assistant Chief Jim Previtera announced this week that he will resign from the d...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays add more infield depth, claim it isnít prelude to a trade

LAKE BUENA VISTA ó The Rays on Tuesday adding their third infielder in the past two weeks would sure look like a precursor to trading front-liners such as 3B Evan Longoria or 2B Brad Miller.But GM Erik Neander insisted that was not the case and that ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Updated: 2 hours ago
GMs-turned-pundits believe now may be the time for Rays to sell

GMs-turned-pundits believe now may be the time for Rays to sell

LAKE BUENA VISTA ó The Rays have been doing a lot of talking, making another small deal Tuesday while still working toward bigger ones of a still-being-determined degree.And there have been a lot of baseball people at the winter meetings talking abou...
Updated: 3 hours ago