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Politics / Issues

Tampa Mayor: 'This Is Really the Last Bad Year' with a $20 Million Deficit

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Bobbie O'Brien
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WUSF Public Media

Two years in office and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn continues to face an annual budget deficit. Yet he told a crowd of hundreds during his “State of the City” message Tuesday that the future of Tampa is bright.

Buckhorn is facing a third year with a deficit. This time the city is short $20 million. The mayor hopes to close the revenue gap by finding efficiencies, making cuts and delaying projects if needed. He was non-committal when asked if there would be layoffs.

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Mayor Buckhorn shaking hands and talking with reporters after his address.

“I hope not. I’ve tried very hard not to,” Buckhorn told reporters after his half-hour speech.

Renewed downtown development like the three new towers and renovated old federal courthouse will soon feed much need property tax revenue into the city coffers, Buckhorn said.

“We won’t see the real benefits of this until next fiscal year and the year after,” he said. “This is really the last bad year we’re going to have.”

The first-term mayor delivered his State of the City address inside the historic Kress Building. Despite its peeling paint and faded floors, the mayor said the former dime store’s strong architectural detail is a metaphor for how far the city has come and how far it can go.

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
The historic Kress Building's strong architectural details show through the peeling and faded paint on the first floor of the former dime store.

He highlighted a growth plan for the city’s future and stressed the need to work hand in hand with business.

"If you're a developer, bring me a deal that's good for your bottom line and great for our community,” Buckhorn said. “If you're an architect or a planner, bring me good design. If you're an entrepreneur, take a chance. If you're a neighborhood leader, keep fighting the fight. We're there with you."

The mayor also emphasized that a first-class transportation system is necessary for the region to grow.

"We need mobility options now,” Buckhorn said. “That means bus rapid transit, that means HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle lanes), and it darn sure means rail."

And he challenged state politicians to help or prepare to be replaced.

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Hundreds showed up to hear Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn deliver his "State of the City" address inside the old Kress Building. Buckhorn wanted to showcase the structure hoping a developer will step in and renovate the historic building.

“Don’t tell me that rail doesn’t pay for itself. Don’t tell me that I have to listen to the mayor of Detroit thank me because he was building his light rail system with our money,” Buckhorn said. “If folks in Tallahassee don’t want to support us, we’ll find folks in Tallahassee that will.”

Buckhorn's vision includes a downtown that revolves around the Hillsborough River, and is not divided by it.