Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gave his annual State of the City address Tuesday; he says since the Great Recession the city has lost $285 million in property tax revenues and he blamed lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. for tying the hands of local communities.
“2007: Our property tax revenue is $166 million. The budget that city council just got this year, only generated $153 million. Due to Save Our Homes, our ability to recapture the revenue lost during the recession is severely hampered. Even though home values are rising again and have reached 2007 levels and beyond, we can only recapture a maximum of 3% per year. That means that we will not be back to 2007 revenue numbers until fiscal year 2019.
“The reality is, in my 8-years as mayor, we will not have a single budget that starts out in the black. And moving forward, there will be more tough choices for this administration and for this city to make. We have done our part to keep our costs within our means while providing innovative, new programs and new ways to fix old problems.
“In the 6-years that I have the mayor, our employee count has increased by 2. That means that the extensive and difficult staffing cuts that we made at the height of the great recession, we have made permanent. In reversing course, we have found other ways to do more with less.
“Now to some degree, we can control our costs, but, there are many things outside of our control that significantly impact our bottom line: rising healthcare costs, increasing pension costs that are tied to the stock market fluctuations and more recently, the threat of uncertainty in Tallahassee and Washington DC. The decisions made–and I want you to hear me on this–the decisions made in the Florida legislature and the United States congress will have a direct and tangible impact on the services that we provide and the resources that we have available. Sources of revenue that are reduced or eliminated, partnerships eviscerated, and programs decimated are potentially looming. All of which, potentially have an impact on our bottom line and our ability to provide the services. That combined with an unprecedented attack on our nation’s cities and their right of self-governance impedes our ability to do what you expect of us to do.”
Buckhorn celebrated the actions of Tampa Police in the inner city and praised a new development that is replacing public housing in West Tampa.
“You know, because we’re in this together. West Tampa is on the verge of a transformation of historic proportions. We’re moving a public housing project in an industrial yard from hopelessness to hope. We’ve reimagined and are rebuilding Julian B. Lane River Front Park and planning for the addition of thousands of new residential units in the West River Project. When West Tampa wins, we all win.
“When East Tampa’s neighborhoods are safer and stronger because of community involvement and the work of our great Tampa Police Department. None of you would want to get up everyday and put kevlar on like they do. They go out and do for us what we can’t do for ourselves and we should forever be grateful. And I know the folks in East Tampa are, who now have a safe neighborhood and a safe environment because of the men and women of the Tampa Police Department. Thank you, Chief Ward and all of the men and women in blue.”
On the subject of police: the Tampa Bay Times previewed a story today that will come out online tomorrow. It looked at 827 people who had been shot in Florida by police. The Times study “Why cops shoot” found a racial disparity in who was shot, especially when considering the least violent people shot. For example, when Florida police shoot people who are unarmed, the victim is much more likely to be black.