Advertisement
  1. Tampa

Is a budget fight brewing in Tampa?

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, pictured with city water director Chuck Weber, is backing a plan to raise water and sewer rates for the next several years to repair aging pipes and outdated plants. {Charlie Frago | Times]
Published Jul. 19

TAMPA — There won't be a proposed property tax hike to wrangle over until the early morning hours like council members did a few year ago. And contract negotiations with the city's three unions haven't even begun.

But Mayor Jane Castor doesn't have a free glide path for her first city budget. On Aug. 1, when she presents her spending plan in council chambers (her first visit there as mayor), Castor will likely have to show some flexibility to get the four votes she needs for a budget expected to top $1 billion.

Council member Bill Carlson, who represents South Tampa, has said he won't vote for the budget unless the city pumps the brakes on its wastewater reuse project, dubbed the Tampa Augmentation Project. That project would dramatically increase Tampa's water supply by converting sewage into drinking water, but Carlson and other critics worry it could harm the environment and damage Tampa Bay Water, the regional utility that coordinates the area's water supply.

"If it looks like they're railroading TAP (the reuse project), then I'll vote against it," Carlson said.

Soon after, Castor pulled a $661,105 public outreach request related to the project. Her chief of staff told Carlson the city would entertain other options, like buying more water from Tampa Bay Water.

Another key vote is Guido Maniscalco. The second-term council member has pushed for the city to reopen city pools in West Tampa and Seminole Heights. Castor hasn't made any promises, but Maniscalco says he wants to see some money put toward the cause in this budget.

"It doesn't have to be a lot. But something to show she is committed," he said. "I want to be reasonable. She's just started."

Other members who have occasionally challenged Castor during her first few months have signaled their priorities. John Dingfelder has said he wants the city to build (or pay for) up to 1,000 new affordable housing units a year. Orlando Gudes has pushed for more minority access to city contracts.

Castor has announced initiatives to address both problems, but neither Dingfelder nor Gudes are certain votes.

Council chairman Luis Viera, who has at times showed frustration with Dingfelder's activist stances and frequent questioning of city staff, said he hopes his colleagues will address the merits of Castor's budget without playing politics.

"We should be reasonable. We should make diligent inquiries. And we should be fair," Viera said.

Viera and Charlie Miranda, a ferocious supporter of the city's wastewater reuse program, are likely in Castor's camp. Joe Citro has also been supportive. Citro didn't respond to a request for comment.

In recent years, municipal coffers have been buoyed by rising property values. But budget negotiations have typically remained tense. Two years ago, council members voted and argued well into the night over then-mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed property tax increase. They eventually settled on less than half of his request. And resentments and recriminations about those votes continue to this day.

Last year, union demands for protections against higher health insurance deductibles and premiums eventually triumphed over Buckhorn's plans to make city employees bear more of a fiscal burden for their health. That fight also lasted over two meetings and nearly 12 hours.

Castor has said the estimated $3.7 million budget surplus isn't going to be a goodie bag for special projects. She's spoken about salting away some of it for reserves. And she has committed to spending about $350,000 to put more body cameras on police officers. Beyond that, she has kept her thoughts to herself and her public statements vague.

The city must approved a balanced budget by Oct. 1.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Tampa City Council was told Thursday that it had little power to prevent a medical marijuana cultivation,  processing and dispensary approved for East Tampa. ANDREW SELSKY  |  AP
    Trulieve plans to open a facility near a recovery center. State preemption prevents the city from taking action.
  2. Jessica LaBouve, a penetration tester for cybersecurity company A-LIGN, poses for a portrait in the A-LIGN office on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 in Tampa. Companies hire A-LIGN to figure out where their digital security weak spots are, and LaBouve is one of the "benevolent hackers" that finds them. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Jessica LaBouve of A-LIGN works with companies to make their applications and platforms more secure.
  3. Patrick Thorpe, who owns part of Marti/Colon Cemetery in West Tampa, wants to start a nonprofit group to cover the costs of burial grounds that are falling into disrepair. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Architect Patrick Thorpe is working to keep old Tampa cemeteries from falling further into disrepair.
  4. A Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy responding to a domestic violence call shot an unarmed 17-year-old along Skipper Road in north Tampa on March 26. The deputy thought the teen was pulling a gun. The teen was paralyzed and the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office has ruled that the deputy will not face charges. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A Hillsborough deputy was cleared because he thought the boy, 17, had a gun. Records show how it happened.
  5. Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming is coming to Carrollwood this fall. [Courtesy of Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming]
    The Orlando-based franchise is a specialty retailer of pet food and supplies.
  6. Apex Performance is located at  4205 W Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. (Photo courtesy of Sam Poole). Photo courtesy of Sam Poole.
    Workouts consist of a warm-up, weight lifting and cardio finisher.
  7. A still image from a 2014 video of Granville Ritchie's interrogation with Temple Terrace detectives the day after 9-year-old Felecia Williams vanished. He is now on trial for her murder. JAMAL THALJI  |  [Photo courtesy of WTVT-Ch. 13]
    Jurors watched his interrogation the day after Felecia Williams was last seen in 2014. “This situation is very complicated for me,” he told police.
  8. Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. Courtesy of Lynn Cristina
    My husband and I usually divide and conquer on the parenting front — and I was a man down.
  9. The Hillsborough County Commission listens to a briefing in June about the lawsuit challenging the county's one-cent transportation sales tax. On Wednesday, reacting to a judge's ruling in that case, commissioners voted to restore the guidelines originally approved by voters on how the tax should be spent. [ANASTASIA DAWSON   |   Times]
    Commissioner Stacy White, who is challenging the tax in court, was the only “no” vote.
  10. Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden told employees Wednesday morning that health problems have forced him to step down at the end of his fifth term, in January 2021.
    After 21 years in the job, Belden plans to retire when his term ends Jan. 3, 2021
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement