Tampa City Council still discussing how to close $45 million gap in budget

The discussion about how to close a $45 million gap in the City of Tampa’s budget continues.

Tampa City Council called a special budget meeting Wednesday night that went late into the evening, as councilors discussed where cuts could be made.

Council previously voted against Mayor Jane Castor’s proposed budget, which included a tax increase.

"We are prioritizing needs and even though the City of Tampa has great needs for road pavement, the money ain’t there y’all," Councilman Alan Clendenin said at Wednesday night’s budget meeting.

On Thursday, Councilman Luis Viera said they’ve made progress, but still have some tough decisions to make.

City leaders are trying to figure out the budget for Tampa.

City leaders are trying to figure out the budget for Tampa.

He said one of the unwavering priorities is protecting funding for public safety.

Last year, the city approved an historic pay raise for first responders over the course of three years.

"We're making some good gains in that regard," Viera shared. "One of the things that we're also talking about is investing in the future in our fire stations for areas in the City of Tampa that have been growing, doing that through bonds, etc."

Viera said council discussed some potential cuts to the budget in order to close the gap.

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"For example, a city parking app," Viera said. "They're also looking at reducing the cost of living adjustments for nonunion workers. I would like to limit that to workers earning over six figures."

Some Tampa residents have voiced strong opposition to a tax increase, pointing to recent years of major economic growth throughout the city.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, councilors also discussed potential cuts to longtime Tampa traditions, including River O’ Green.

"We have to have everything. It needs to be on the table outside of the core critical needs of the City of Tampa," Viera said. "And we have to weigh the benefit to that. Right. In terms of those city events, those things cost money. And we have to see whether or not we could do that as opposed to something else and the value of those events."

The council had already shot down a tax increase.

"If you can't live with a 9% increase every single year within your budget, something is wrong," Tampa resident Lance Williams said. "And the answer is not to raise taxes."

Williams said he’s seen the economic boom radiate through Tampa as a resident and a realtor, questioning why taxpayers should have to field even more costs for the city.

A spokesperson for the city said expenses have risen so much in the form of insurance, construction materials, raises for public safety employees, that the extra revenue generated by new development and higher property values pays for existing levels of service.

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That spokesperson said the mayor’s proposed millage increase would have helped fund road improvement projects, affordable housing and upgrading or building new fire stations.

However, Williams said a tax increase would add to the already rising taxes and costs residents are facing.

"As a homeowner, as a neighbor, as a citizen, I don't understand why anybody thinks, well, you know, why don't we just raise our taxes?" Williams said. "Because the city can't live with that."

The second city council public hearing on the budget is on Tuesday.

Viera said that between now and Tuesday, the council is working with the mayor to discuss potential cuts to the budget.