Fac­ing deficit, Tampa ta­bles liv­ing wage plan

Tampa Bay Times - - Etc - BY CHAR­LIE FRAGO Times Staff Writer Con­tact Char­lie Frago at cfrago@tam­pabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Fol­low@Char­lieFrago.

TAMPA — Shortly af­ter the city’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer told City Coun­cil mem­bers Thurs­day that Tampa faces a po­ten­tial $13 mil­lion bud­get short­fall, the board shelved an ef­fort to force city con­trac­tors to pay their work­ers a liv­ing wage.

The de­ci­sion, pre­sented by city at­tor­neys on be­half of Mayor Bob Buck­horn’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, means the bay area’s largest mu­nic­i­pal­ity won’t fol­low the lead of St. Petersburg, which re­quires con­trac­tors with more than 25 em­ploy­ees and city con­tracts worth at least $500,000 to pay their work­ers at least $12 an hour, ris­ing to $14 an hour in two years. The hourly wages in­clude the cost of health in­sur­ance.

In light of CFO Sonya Lit­tle’s pre­sen­ta­tion — which pre­dicted a lo­cal eco­nomic slow­down and a wide bud­get hole — coun­cil mem­ber Guido Manis­calco said it made sense to put liv­ing wages on the back burner for now.

“I un­der­stand. Per­haps in the fu­ture when the city is in bet­ter fi­nan­cial shape. Now may not be the time,” Manis­calco said.

As­sis­tant City At­tor­ney Ernest Mueller said staff re­search in­di­cated the liv­ing wage pro­posal would be too pricey for mu­nic­i­pal cof­fers be­cause con­trac­tors would likely bake higher wages into their bids, rais­ing costs. Money also would be needed to cre­ate com­pli­ance and en­force- ment mea­sures, he said.

“At this time, such an or­di­nance would be cost-pro­hib­i­tive,” Mueller said.

St. Petersburg’s pro­gram was es­ti­mated to cost about $500,000 an­nu­ally.

Lit­tle pre­sented a fis­cal update to the coun­cil that in­cluded sober­ing news.

Ris­ing la­bor and pen­sion costs will vir­tu­ally wipe out an es­ti­mated $2.4 mil­lion in­crease in prop­erty tax col­lec­tions in the cur­rent fis­cal year over what had been bud­geted, she said.

The higher ex­pen­di­tures, cou­pled with a $6.8 mil­lion debt pay­ment due on 1996 util­ity bonds, means the city is fac­ing an es­ti­mated $13.6 mil­lion deficit, Lit­tle said.

The city is re­quired by law to bal­ance its bud­get. Lit­tle said the police and fire de­part­ments have been in­structed to cut their bud- gets by 1 per­cent. Other de­part­ments face re­duc­tions of up to 3 per­cent, she said.

The fis­cal pic­ture should be­come clearer when the Hills­bor­ough County proper ty ap­praiser’s of­fice re­leases its prop­erty tax revenue es­ti­mates in July.

De­spite Lit­tle’s eco­nomic fore­cast, there was no men­tion of a tax in­crease.

Buck­horn told the Tampa Bay Times in March that de­spite the deficit, he had no plans to ask for a mill­age in­crease. That means Tampa’s cur­rent mill­age rate of $6.21 per $1,000 in as­sessed tax­able value would stay the same.

Last year’s in­crease of .475 of a mill bumped up the av­er­age bill by about $91.

City Coun­cil mem­ber Guido Manis­calco says the plan could re­turn in a bet­ter fis­cal time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.