On Tuesday night, the Tampa City Council approved a nearly $2 billion budget, maintaining the current property tax rate after rejecting Mayor Jane Castor’s request for a millage increase earlier this month.
Before the council’s vote, Mayor Castor noted that the revised budget would only cover the city’s obligations for 2024 and would not address its long-deferred maintenance needs.
The budget plan adopted by council members includes several notable changes compared to the previous year’s budget:
- Non-union pay increases are limited to 3%.
- An additional $12 million is allocated to the affordable housing budget, partly funded by $5 million from general fund reserves.
- An extra $7 million is earmarked for road repair and sidewalk improvements, funded by parking revenue.
- A new position within the mayor’s office has been eliminated.
- The parks and recreation department faces a funding decrease, among other cuts.
Mayor Castor’s proposed property tax increase, which was denied, would have generated nearly $54 million in additional revenue, resulting in a net increase of over $45 million after considering a contribution of $8.6 million to community redevelopment agencies. Nearly $18 million of that would have been directed toward transportation projects, but the entire spending plan had to be scaled back.
CFO Dennis Rogero reported an updated revenue projection showing a $2 million increase since the initial budget presentation, making it easier to fund increases in public safety, housing, and other areas.
Despite the static millage rate of 6.2076, the city anticipates higher revenue due to rising property tax values, projecting over $330 million in fiscal 2024.
In another move, the council voted 6-1 to remove references to the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council from the budget and replace them with general references to economic development. This decision reflects ongoing tensions between Council Member Bill Carlson and the organization. The city has an existing two-year contract with the EDC for over $500,000 annually, which was executed in November 2021. The vote does not necessarily mean the contract won’t be renewed, but Carlson sought flexibility to allocate funds to other economic development causes.
Tampa EDC President and CEO Craig Richard expressed the organization’s commitment to its partnership with the city, dating back to 2009, and its intention to continue strengthening that partnership.
Lastly, discussions during the council meeting included topics related to the police and fire departments.
The police department did not receive the requested funds for additional officers, but Chief Lee Bercaw mentioned that the department had applied for grants to cover hiring, training, and equipment needs. On the other hand, the fire department received funding for a long-awaited station in North Tampa.
“We’re going to work incredibly hard all year to get [the planning for the project] done as quickly as possible, hopefully getting a shovel in the ground,” Council member Lynn Hurtak said.
Furthermore, council members gave their approval to the Capital Improvement Budget and Program for fiscal years 2024 through 2028, amounting to nearly $380 million. During the discussion, there was consideration of issuing additional bonds to address the city’s pressing requirements.
Tampa anticipates employing more than 4,900 individuals in fiscal 2024, solidifying its position as one of the top 30 employers in the region.