TAMPA — The city's property tax rate will hold steady this year, funding a $787 million budget that's a bit higher than last year's.
Mayor Pam Iorio presented her proposed budget — the last of her tenure — to the City Council on Thursday, highlighting personnel and operating cuts that allow for increases in capital spending, pension contributions and possible pay raises despite a $16 million drop in property tax revenue.
"This year, we really laid it out for all our departments, and we said you've got to roll it back," Iorio said.
The budget is up 4.4 percent from last year, or about $33 million, with the extra costs covered in part by $12 million in reserves. Cost savings came from laying off 39 employees, eliminating more than 100 vacant positions, consolidating city functions and changing some operations.
The proposed property tax rate of $5.73 per $1,000 of taxable value means a person with a $157,000 home and a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay about $613 in city property taxes. That's about 25 percent of a Tampa homeowner's property tax bill.
Iorio said giving no raises last year prevented significant layoffs.
"It saved big time," she said, pointing out that the $209 million in personnel spending is less than it was in 2007.
"That's a real accomplishment," she said, noting that the city work force has been cut 13 percent over the past four years.
This year, Iorio will offer merit raises to general employees and step increases, which are awarded based on years of service, to police and firefighters.
The struggling stock market means the city has to contribute $40.6 million to pension funds, a $29.3 million increase.
"I believe in pensions," Iorio said. "But . . . we have to look at some kind of reform system. Not just in the city of Tampa."
This year's budget also shows a $48.5 million increase for capital improvement projects. That includes $21.4 million for drainage improvements, $3.9 million for new police cars, and a $1.2 million increase in spending on sidewalks, traffic calming, signs and street maintenance.
Having first won election in 2003, Iorio is in her last year in office due to term limits. She highlighted some of her accomplishments, most notably investments made in east Tampa and downtown, such as the Tampa Museum of Art, the history museum and renovation of Curtis Hixon Park.
"Can you name another city really that has this much going on, and we did it during the recession?" she asked.
Council members lauded Iorio for her stewardship.
"You've done a tremendous job," said council Chairman Tom Scott, who is hoping to replace Iorio in the March elections.
He also praised Iorio for honoring her promise to keeping the freeze on step increases for public safety workers in place for only one year. "Our word is all that we have as elected officials," he said. "Our integrity. And you have maintained that."
Public hearings on the budget are set for 5 p.m. Sept. 14 and 28.