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TAMPA COUNCIL OKAYS BUDGET

In the first hearing, parks and pools get extra cash. A final vote will be Sept. 23.

At the first of two hearings Wednesday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Pam Iorio's $754 million budget for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The budget holds the tax rate at $5.73 for every $1,000 of taxable property value for a third year, meaning if a house is worth $200,000, after exemptions, a homeowner would pay $859.50 in city property taxes.

Tampa residents also pay property taxes to the county, school system and other agencies.

The budget reduces spending by almost 10 percent, or about $82 million from last year, mostly due to a reduction in bond money and state loans.

Facing a $51 million shortfall, the city's solutions include eliminating 145 jobs; cutting overtime, vehicle replacements and equipment purchases; and freezing pay. Since 2007, the city has cut its work force about 10 percent.

Among the allocations are:

- $8.75 million to resurface nearly 37 miles of roadways, replace and install road signs, repair sidewalks, and launch a dozen traffic calming projects.

- $1.4 million toward improvements of right and left turn lanes at MacDill Avenue.

- $2.5 million for a New Tampa fire station.

- $350,000 toward a Brorein Street underpass as part of the Riverwalk project.

After residents spoke at Wednesday's hearing about the need to repair parks and pools, council voted to give parks and recreation extra money.

Council member Linda Saul-Sena moved to take that money from a $2 million item intended to create an "avenue of the arts" on Zack Street in downtown, making the street two-way.

Mark Huey, the city's economic development administrator, advised against it, saying the Zack Street project was meant to draw people from the Tampa Museum of Art and Riverwalk to Franklin Street businesses.

"That economic engine," Huey said about the Riverwalk, "if we don't connect it to Franklin Street, it's going to fail."

Council members noted that the street project is in its preliminary planning stages, but parks and pools need repairs now.

The council will take its second, final vote Sept. 23.

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