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Tampa 2013 Budget: Cuts, but no layoffs, tax increases | News

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Tampa 2013 Budget: Cuts, but no layoffs, tax increases
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Tampa, Florida -- Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn presented his proposal for a balanced $804.4 million budget that includes another year of cuts, but no layoffs and no increases in property taxes.

More Info: Tampagov.net - Mayor Buckhorn presents 2013 Budget Proposal

"This is unlike anything we have ever experienced and it has not been easy," the Mayor told the council, referring to the last several years.

The city of Tampa is still feeling the impact of the housing bust, faced with yet another year of a decline in property tax revenue.

In FY 2007, the city generated $166.2 million in property tax revenue. In FY 2013, it's projected to be $115.2 million.

"That's a big cut and that directly affects our ability to provide services," said Mayor Buckhorn.

For the next fiscal year that begins on October 1st, the city was faced with a $27.8 million shortfall.

"We went through with a fine tooth comb, we looked at all of the accounts we had, we scraped money out of dozens of different accounts, we've pushed construction projects down the road, we did everything a family would do in their own circumstances... the zeroes are more on the end," the mayor explained.

City departments were asked to slash about 5 percent from the budgets and look for vacancies that didn't need to be filled. Parks and Recreation eliminated $1.5 million and Tampa Police slashed $1.4 million.

The combined efforts, along with other cost saving and revenue generating efforts...like additional revenue from the Convention Center, put the city close to a balance.

To get there, the Mayor proposes the city take $8.7 million from the reserve.

"I think that's not unexpected. Fortunately, we have a very healthy rainy day fund previous mayors have set aside a great deal of money for circumstances like this," said Mayor Buckhorn. "We were able to balance this budget with no tax increases, without laying any employees off and being able to pay our great city employees for the jobs they do."

He also points out the budget includes an increase on capital improvements by $104.8 million. Funds are slated for storm water, waste water, Riverwalk, and aquatic center improvements.

"I think all things considered in this economy, the city is in very, very good shape," Mayor Buckhorn told 10 News. "I think we're coming out of this. I think we'll have one more difficult year, but I think Tampa is uniquely positioned to lead Florida out of this recession just by the diversity of our economy, so I think over the next 3-4 years you're going to start to see us on an upward trend as opposed to a downward trend."

When the city eventually sees growth in its revenue, the Mayor intends to remain cautious.

"I think we're more efficient, I think we're more productive. That doesn't mean we don't need additional revenues, but I think if I can keep the government lean when the recession ends and the revenues do pick up, not to use it to add government, but use it to reinvest and create more wealth,' said Mayor Buckhorn.

Earlier, he told the city council, "We can't cut our way out of this, it's just not going to happen. We are already cutting into the muscle. The only way to get out of this is to grow our way out of this economy and the only way you do that is to become more competitive, to get people through the permitting process, to get them moving dirt and throwing up steel, creating jobs and creating opportunity and most importantly, creating revenue."

There will be three public hearings on this budget. The first is scheduled for August 16. The council will vote on September 27.

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