Thursday, July 24, 2014

Buckhorn proposed $876 million FY2015 budget won't dip into reserves

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 11:33 AM

click to enlarge mayors_slider_2014budget.jpg
For the first time since Bob Buckhorn was elected Mayor in 2011, the proposed budget he submitted today for fiscal year 2015 does not dip into financial reserves, and in fact includes a modest surplus of $1.3 million. That's a dramatic improvement from his staff's forecast of just a few months ago, when city budget officials say there were millions in reserves that would probably need to be tapped to get to a balanced budget.

"We are on the road to recovery," Buckhorn declared halfway into his hour-long presentation before City Council this morning.

Although the proposed $876 million dollar budget is a sizable increase from last year's budget, most of that growth is in infrastructure spending, an essential part of the quality of life in Tampa that has been underfunded in the city's budget in recent years.

When you talk infrastructure in Tampa, you're talking about stormwater projects. Just a half-hour of solid rain can make too many streets in the city unmanageable, so this year Buckhorn is attempting to make a serious attempt at alleviating some of those problems, though of course because the way the city was built there will never be enough funding to eliminate it. So $21 million will go towards drainage work in East Tampa, Drew Park, the  Manhattan/Vasconia area, Kensington Ave and Watrous Canal. Combined with other improvements, the total infrastructure bill will be over $35 million this year.
Buckhorn began his presentation as he has the previous three years, by hailing the fiscal situation he inherited from former Mayor Pam Iorio, who at times was criticized for being too stingy with the city's reserves. But that move was prescient after the devastating recession led to a dramatic reduction of property taxes in the middle of her second term. 

Buckhorn noted that there are now 700 fewer people working for the city of Tampa since 2007, another indication of how much local government has been pared down in recent years due to the economic crisis. But that's turned around in the past couple of years — and this year there's a 7.2 percent increase in taxable property values.

The improved economic picture has allowed Buckhorn to get on the right side of Councilman Frank Reddick and the residents of the V.M. Ybor neighborhood with his announcement that he will provide $300,000 for repairs to the neighborhood pool, with plans for more in next year's budget. After Reddick said "Amen" to the mayor's announcement, Buckhorn joked with the councilman that "I want to to see you in that Speedo." 

The mayor said that there will be funding necessary for a deteriorating City Hall, saying "This building needs a lot of love."
That means $16.6 million to repair the building's exterior, plumbing, electrical and heating and air conditioning systems.

The budget also includes a 2.5 percent negotiated raise for all city employees, and the Tampa Police Department will receive $1.3 million to hire 30 new officers, as Buckhorn says that there will be a number of officers retiring in the coming years.

There will be two public hearings on the budget. The first will be on Thursday, September 4 at 6 p.m., the second on Wednesday, September 17, also at 6 p.m. Both at City Hall.

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