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Tampa stretches $1.9 billion budget to cover housing, public safety, infrastructure

tampa city council at a meeting
City of Tampa
The Tampa City Council discussed Tuesday how to cut spending and reallocate funds towards crucial city services for the 2024 budget.

After previously voting down a property tax rate increase, city council members discussed Tuesday how to continue funding crucial city services through spending cuts and budget reallocations.

The Tampa City Council debated for six hours Tuesday night on how to stretch the $1.9 billion budget for next year.

Council members ultimately prioritized affordable housing, public safety and infrastructure improvements, items deemed as the city's most pressing needs.

But funding for those items came at the expense of other spending.

Cuts were made to contributions to city institutions such as the Tampa Art Museum and the zoo; public events including Boom by the Bay fireworks and the River O'Green festival; and merit raises for non-union city staff.

A proposed pickleball court in South Tampa is also no longer being funded.

At a budget meeting Sept. 5, the council struck down Mayor Jane Castor's proposed tax increase. While it would have generated an additional $45 million in general funds, council members cited soaring living costs and insurance rates when they voted it down.

District 7 representative Luis Viera said Tuesday that without the additional revenue, funding for critical needs had to be found elsewhere in the budget.

"Our challenge is spending cuts, pushing off other spending plans, the reserve, et cetera, to pay for some of those spending priorities," said Viera, "We have to be very careful in doing that balance so that we don't take advantage of something this year that we may need next year or after."

The board approved about $1.5 million for a new North Tampa fire station and $8 million from Community Investment Tax for public safety personnel and equipment.

About $50,000 is designated towards a citywide public safety master plan that Viera touted as "a proactive rather than reactive approach." And $80,000 will go towards a public safety impact fee study that will explore the use of the alternative funding source.

The Tampa Police Department is hoping to receive grants to cover hiring, training and equipment costs for the next year as well.

An additional $7 million coming from parking revenue will be added to the $4.4 million already budgeted for road repaving.

And about $5 million in reserve funds will be redirected towards affordable housing programs, increasing the total to about $12 million.

Alan Clendenin, the District 1 representative, supported the move, but also cautioned against it as a long-term solution.

"This is a Band-Aid and, in some ways, a tourniquet on a bleeding artery for some of these programs," said Clendenin. "This is fiscal year 2024. We're going to be right back in the same place and possibly in a worse case scenario 12 months from now."

He stressed that Tampa needs sustainable revenue streams in order to continue to support the growing population that is putting a strain on existing city services. Council will discuss issuing government bonds in a future meeting.

The budget now goes to Mayor Jane Castor for her signature.

As WUSF's general assignment reporter, I cover a variety of topics across the greater Tampa Bay region.