Florida mayor presents budget plan: ‘We are not willing to defund the police’

State / Regional

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Mayor Jane Castor presented her final draft of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget for Tampa to the City Council on Thursday. The $1.254 billion budget proposal is the largest on city record.

Caster outlined the budget Thursday morning during a virtual meeting with the City Council, saying the city had five strategic goals moving forward: transportation, development services, workforce development, affordable housing, sustainability and resiliency. The goal for transportation includes plans to connect downtown Tampa to the Westshore area. The budget would set aside $11.8 million to fix issues with transit infrastructure, while $10.3 million would go toward other roadway improvements.

A number of Tampa landmarks and Rivercrest and Fair Oaks parks will be getting upgrades. Castor’s budget allocates $150,000 to help renovate Jackson House and $50,000 for the Zion Cemetery memorial.

The budget includes $1.6 million in state and federal grant funding to make homeownership accessible to 120 low to moderate-income families.

Castor said her office has no plans to defund police amid nationwide calls to do so following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We are not willing to defund the police,” Castor said. “We will focus on investing, not divesting [from the police department].”

The budget sets aside about $256 million to the Tampa Police Department and Fire Rescue, with the police budget totaling nearly $176 million.

“I’m not saying this out of pride or arrogance, because we still have more work to do. I’m saying it because of the value of this high level of service that is virtually unmatched for similar cities,” Castor added.

Castor has said she wants to equip more officers with body cameras. The city previously approved $952,000 in funding for body cameras, and the mayor said she plans to set aside $1.1 million for 550 body cameras.

Castor was Tampa’s chief of police from 2009 to 2015. Her final year, the city launched a pilot program, giving 60 body cameras to street cops, school resource officers and others who deal with public safety.

The budget also includes funding for bias training for all city employees.

The city wants to spend $1 million on fire and rescue air tanks, and $13.8 million on flood control projects. It would also hire a sustainability and resilience officer to address climate change.

The mayor said the city has saved about $11.5 million this year amid the pandemic by freezing positions, putting off projects and restructuring debt.

Parts one and two of the budget can be found here and here.

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