TAMPA, Fla. — It was a meeting that took hours, but Tampa City Council members approved the city's 2024 budget.
Previously, the mayor had proposed raising taxes, which would have generated $45 million for the nearly $2 billion dollar budget proposal. That 1.0 millage rate hike was shot down earlier this month.
Tuesday night, council members redirected money to make up for the $45 million no longer in the budget. Community members got their last chance to speak on what they would like to see.
Most of the people who spoke during public comment shared their concerns about the housing crisis. Council members jumped right on this, allocating over $12 million for housing. That's $5 million more than what was in front of them at the start of the meeting. The additional $5 million was reallocated from the city's general fund balance to housing.
A big concern among some council members, as well as the city's chief financial officer, was using money from the reserves. The CFO said that lowering the city's fund balance was risky. The city currently has funds reserved for emergencies. For example, if a Category 5 hurricane hits, these funds can be used to pay for emergency resources upfront before the government is able to reimburse.
Council members emphasized that they would be redirecting $5 million from what the budget would have added to the general fund balance, rather than taking out what was already in there.
Next, hours were spent discussing funds for public safety. A big concern for fire officials was the need for new fire stations, upgrades for existing fire stations, and more firefighter paramedics.
Firefighters told 10 Tampa Bay some stations were built so long ago that they no longer meet safety standards. Some firefighters expressed concerns about toxic contaminants from fires making their way into the dorm area where they sleep. Another fire official said mold is an issue.
Firefighters have applied for a grant that would allow them to hire 30 more firefighter paramedics, but it hasn't been approved yet. Officials said the grant may go to another city because Tampa has money in its reserves. The budget allows the fire department to hire 18 more firefighter paramedics.
The council went back and forth to figure out where the funds for firefighters should be concentrated: adding new vehicles or building new stations. The fire chief said both were needed. The council was able to allocate funds to address Station 24.
Council members said the fire department and the police will each see $8 million from the CIT fund.
Police saw cuts in the approved budget. The police chief said to substitute the city's funding, he has applied for grants. If those grants are approved, the police department will be able to hire 30 more officers.
The council also spent time talking about transportation and roads that are in need of repairs. One council member said every day he gets phone calls about sidewalks that need to be built. That's why the council allocated $7 million to paving, reprograming that from parking revenues.
Another area that saw cuts was a new position in the mayor's office as well as funding for pickleball courts.
Council approved the budget and it is now headed to the mayor's desk for a signature. One council member felt certain that Mayor Jane Castor would sign it.
The council also approved not raising the millage and passed the same millage rate as before at 6.2072.