TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve Mayor Jane Castor’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021.
After nearly two hours of public comment from dozens of people asking the Tampa City Council to not increase the Tampa Police Department’s budget, the council approved the city budget, totaling $1.3 billion, which includes a $13 million increase to the Tampa Police Department.
The city says the added $13 million, which brings the Tampa Police Department's budget to just over $176 million, is going toward personnel costs like negotiated contract salaries, pension contributions, benefits, healthcare, body-worn cameras and aviation maintenance.
The Tampa City Council went on to say that they are listening to the community when it comes to calls to put more funding into mental health and community resources, but the $13 million is not the place to pull it from.
“Whenever it comes to things that this Tampa City Council, working with the mayor of the City of Tampa have done, some of them increase the police budget. You take a look at body cameras, we’ve invested several million dollars to make sure that virtually all Tampa Police Department Officers are going to be equipped with body cameras... So, the overall point is, if you’re going to be improving community relations with regards to the police, that’s traditionally going to require more money,” said Tampa City Council Member Luis Viera.
Council Member Viera said the City of Tampa is currently looking at places to increase funding for community resources.
“We’re taking a look at implicit bias training done by an outside professional, that’s something that goes a long way. We’re taking a look at changes to the civilian review board and working with the Castor administration in that regard. We funded several million dollars in new body cameras,” said Viera.
The president of the Hillsborough County NAACP says she understands this increase in funding but wants to see increases in other places as well.
“I understand that there are policemen there that are working and so everybody, you know, if they’re doing their job proficiently, then they should get an increase. But, the part that I didn’t understand is that, this mayor keeps saying this is a diverse city but yet, we don’t feel like this is a diverse city,” said Yvette Lewis, President of the Hillsborough County NAACP.
The NAACP is urging the city to consider putting more funds into community policing, training and an assessment supervisor who can evaluate a police officer’s conduct, as well as their mental health.
"I want to see this city dedicate themselves in the voice of the African American community. I want the city to say 'OK, we hear you, we're here,' and make these changes," said Lewis.
The city's approved budget also includes funding for design to begin a new fire station for North Tampa, as well as a new fire truck for Station 13, several parks and recreational investments and transportation investments.
City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said this in a statement:
"The passage of this budget is a pivotal step towards transforming Tampa's tomorrow. Now, more than ever, our community is looking to us to use strong fiscal opportunities and responsibilities when determining all the ways their tax dollars impact their daily life. We remain laser-focused on building neighborhoods that are inclusive and equitable for everyone by examining everything we do with a sustainability and resilience lens. This budget will invest in critical infrastructure that fosters strong multi-modal mobility options, housing affordability, not just for some but for all, a strong commitment to customer service, and championing a city-wide commitment to workforce development so that we can build a community that will last for generations."
For a list of everything included in the City of Tampa’s $1.3 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, click here.