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Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio calls for pay freeze

TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio is asking the city's police, fire and general employee unions to forgo all pay raises next year.

And if she can't get that freeze, she said the city could have to look at cutting 240 positions.

"We are trying to produce a budget that doesn't adversely affect the citizens we serve," Iorio told City Council members Monday.

The city faced similar budget constraints the last two years, she said, but next year's financial outlook is even more grim.

As a result, she said, the city needs its 4,660 employees to sacrifice.

None of the union presidents returned calls for comment Monday, though Iorio said she had a "very cordial" meeting last week with all three.

"They said they would consider it," she said. "They were not negative. I think they recognize the position that we're in."

After last week's meeting, the president of the city's general employees union said "we can work with that" if Iorio's proposal means no employees would lose their jobs. The presidents of the fire and police unions made no commitments other than to consider Iorio's proposal.

The mayor said she needs the pay freeze to help close what otherwise would be a $52.2 million deficit in the city's 2009-10 fiscal year budget. That's bigger than the city's last two deficits put together.

That gap looms because property tax and sales tax revenues are each expected to drop at least 15 percent next year. Revenue from the state, city permits and the convention center also are expected to fall.

Meanwhile, the investments that make up the city's pension funds for general employees, fire and police have performed poorly. As a result, the city is required by law to put tens of millions of dollars more into the funds to ensure they can cover their obligations to retirees.

Iorio said the pay freeze would cover every city employee, including herself and her top administrators. City officials also plan to eliminate 73 vacant civilian positions, reduce spending on capital projects, cut overtime and use reserves to help close the budget gap.

But that would leave the reserves, or fund balances, at slightly less than the 20 percent of the budget that city officials deem prudent.

Since 2007, City Hall has eliminated 498 jobs, about 10 percent of its payroll. That would make finding additional jobs to cut difficult, since Iorio said police officers and firefighters would not be cut.

Iorio isn't the only top administrator in Hillsborough struggling to reduce costs. County Administrator Pat Bean recently said she might have to look at cutting 1,000 county jobs to close a $110 million budget deficit.

Iorio did not ask City Council members for an opinion on the pay freeze Monday because council members would have to arbitrate any impasse resulting from a failure to come to terms in upcoming contract negotiations.

Council member Mary Mulhern suggested she hopes it doesn't come to that, and almost any step, including using furloughs, would be better than laying off more employees.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

By the numbers

$52.2m Tampa's estimated budget shortfall

$110M Hillsborough County's estimated budget shortfall.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio calls for pay freeze 04/06/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 6, 2009 10:51pm]

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