City of Tampa

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Field Assignment: City of Tampa



Field Assignment: City of Tampa


The city of Tampa has a vision to be a progressive and prominent city known in the world for its education, security and leisure. The City Council has a mandate to this effect that aims at delivering the best services to enhance the living standards of the residents of Tampa. The writing of the budget for the year 2011/2012 had a theme “Changing the City’s Economic DNA that reflected the city’s efforts at moving into the new economy and renewing the state’s focus on community-led development. The body of this essay addresses the different processes in budget- making, the stakeholders, and the consequences of actions by individuals and groups on the budget-making process in Tampa City Council.

Some of the components within the budget proposal include commitment to attracting new businesses, retaining the existing businesses, and growing entrepreneurship. The economic plan has the target of reorganizing the incentive packages to suit technological industries, as well as addressing the housing problem, especially for the first-time buyers and homeowners. “Changing the City’s Economic DNA” also involves making the city streets safer by introducing a crime initiative plan and embracing new technologies and techniques that assist in the fight against crime.

Part I: The Budget Process

Budgeting cycle

Tampa’s annual budget process routinely begins in November, with the preparation of initial revenue and expense estimates that are then reviewed by the Mayor. In March 2011, the departments were asked to develop three budgetary scenarios and to provide the service level effect for each scenario. The three budget scenarios were as follows:

  • Scenario 1: Using the FY2011 operating budget as the base, each department was to absorb personnel-related increases (e.g., pension and health) without any additional funding.
  • Scenario 2: Same as Scenario 1 and reduce the budget for a minimum of additional 10%.
  • Scenario 3: Same as Scenario 1 and reduce the budget for a minimum of additional 15%.

“The Recommended Operating and Capital Budget” was to be presented to City Council in July 2011. Budget hearings are held in September, and the budget is adopted by the end of the current fiscal year (September 30).

The budget process allows for budget amendments if needed during the year. An amendment may be initiated by the Mayor at any time, and after City Council approval, the funds appropriated are adjusted or realigned. Other explanations of budget and financial terms are illustrated in the related financial information appendix of this document.

Revenue Forecasts

The Budget Division of the Revenue and Finance Department prepares revenue and expenditures projections, budget instructions, and target budgets. The division controls expenditures within approved appropriations, prepares budget resolutions, adjustments, budget-related briefings, and summaries. The budget and management goals for 2012 are broadly divided into fiscal, personnel and community goals. Fiscal goals involve striving to keep the recurring expenses at par with the recurring revenues, boosting economic development, using tax increment financing, and maintaining an emergency kit for disasters.

The revenue funding sources are comprised of a variety of public funding mechanisms that support city activities related to public safety, public works, parks and recreation, enterprise operations and maintenance, capital improvement projects, and debt service. The Enterprise Funds are entities that provide public service activities for a fee that enables the entity to be self-supporting. Revenue forecasts are prepared by the budget staff and approved by the Chief Financial Officer.

Budget Policies

The City of Tampa has established the following financial policies to facilitate management actions on financial decisions, as well as to assist readers in understanding the City’s finances:


1. Fund Balance Policy

2. Minimum Level of Unassigned Fund Balance

3. Spending Order of Fund Balances

4. Stabilization Fund

5. Fees and Charges Policy

6. Investment Policy

7. One-Time Revenue Policy

8. Unpredictable Revenue Policy

9. Payment in Lieu of Taxes/Payment in Lieu of Franchise Fees (PILOT/PILOF)

10. Revenue Diversification Policy

11. Capital Improvement Program

12. Debt Policy


These policies apply to the city funds in general. Federal, state, and local laws, regulations and standards, and specific financial policies may supersede these statements. The benefits derived from consolidated financial policies include the availability of a concise reference guide for consideration in decisions associated with the city financial matters. It also includes the related redirection of the financial focus to the overall financial condition of the city, rather than to a narrow focus on single issues and communication of commitment to sound financial management and fiscal integrity, and strengthening credibility and confidence aspects for citizens, investors, and rating agencies.

Role of the legislative body/governing board

The Mayor’s Office provides services required of the executive branch of City government, including administrative functions and representing the City at ceremonial and community events. The Mayor provides direction to department heads, administers ordinances and resolutions of City Council, meets with the public, and provides information on matters of community concern.

City Council, legislative branch of the city government, operates in accordance with the provisions of the 1974 Revised Charter of the City of Tampa. It is responsible for reviewing and enacting the budget of Tampa prior to the start of each fiscal year, in addition to other ordinances and resolutions administered by Mayor as the city’s chief executive. The Council’s goals are to provide responsible legislation, ensure the safe, efficient, and fair operation of city government, and provide for general health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of Tampa.





Leadership style of the chief executive


The formal structure with which the executive department at the budget division is structured depicts a decentralized system that allows little room for the Mayor to have an unbridled authority over the activities of Tampa. The formal structure is illustrated in the figure below.

In terms of deliberation, composition and activities surrounding the Tampa City budget process, the leadership style is rather participatory. This is because of the initiative by different states to experiment with more participatory styles of running their councils through participatory budgeting. This program allows for the voting by residents on the fate of small-scale infrastructure projects. The Technical Advisory Committee in Tampa City Council has an open leadership style that involved the implementation of building projects through intense local government participation.

The concept behind participatory budgeting is that the local residents are empowered to make real decisions on how the public money should be spent. This method is also transparent, as the residents have access to the audits done by independent firms. The efficiency of this technique has increased the level of participation of the citizens in the different aspects of the fiscal policies that originate from the local government and end up at the national level.

Part II: The Budget Document

Mission of the Budget Office

The Budget Office mission is to ensure that all financial responsibilities of government are completed; to ascertain that, all departments in the government have a functional accountability system. The office shares the most latitude in shaping the agenda, which adds responsiveness to community priorities and improvements. The expected performance is shaped at the highest level in order to break those requests that come in with wastefulness and excessive budget request. It is critical for these departments to work together, because Budget Office ensures that each department gets the necessary resources needed to meet the expectation of the community and its elected representatives. The Budget Office also has to provide technical expertise to departments on such matters as planning, performance measures, policy choices, and entrepreneurial options for seeking additional revenues. This ensures that the adversarial relationship between budget analysis and the department heads reduces conflicts and builds accuracy and integrity among departments.

Type of budget document

The city uses target-based budgeting, that is, a system where city administrator sets expenditure targets for departments based on estimated availability of revenue.

Scrutiny of lawmakers and the rigors of a comparative analysis

Building open government is a challenge for all countries, hence the importance of collecting and exchanging experiences on how to put the basic principles of good governance into practice. Transparency and accountability; fairness and equity; efficiency and effectiveness; respect for the rule of law and high standards of ethical behavior are all principles that need to be given substance if better public governance is to benefit citizens. As of today, the public sector corruption, as a symptom of failed governance, depends on the multitude of factors, such as the quality of public sector management, the nature of accountability relations between the government and its citizens, the legal framework. The degrees to which the public sector processes are accompanied by transparency and to which dissemination of information engages constructive dialogue through all phases of the budget cycle are also important in this context. The power is behind the people. If government fails, who should the blame fall on ? The popular view on this question circles around the point that the public must hold their officials accountable for every decision they make. The citizens are therefore accountable in the process of deciding what their needs are and how they want the budget to read. The electorate would be satisfied at knowing where their taxes are being channeled.

Differences in public and private budgeting processes

Within the public and private sector, the revenue responsibility is equally shared based on the strategic plan of the organization. Budgeting is aimed at setting goals and objectives that can be measured and that can identify weaknesses in an organization. Budgets also control the diverse activities carried out by numerous sub-units in large bureaucracies. The amount of money available for allocation in the budget also varies. While, in the private sector, budgeting is constrained by a fixed and relatively small amount of available resources, the public sector is characterized by a higher limit that explains the surplus recorded by many public institutions. Private sector can experience higher levels of production and their work can increase income, but the opportunities for increased allocation are still limited. The public sector, on the other hand, can determine how much of the total public resources will be allocated to different parties.

The private sector is also characterized by a focus on profit, while the public sector has a larger scope of responsibilities that may not necessarily be profitable. Sometimes, private firms may forge short-term benefit for the long-term results. This may include investing in social activities that may affect the organization in a positive way. Yet, whatever the activities that private firms engage in, their operations must be efficient and bring the largest return on the investment. Conversely, the public sector may knowingly be inefficient by undertaking activities that the private sector cannot or are not interested in providing. The trend to convert many public services to private, as state and local budgets shrank consequently, left more extensive user charges and fees for those who benefited from government service in the past.

Another difference between the two is the ownership on the means of production and the clientele.

Accountability in political and legal disputes in local governments

Budget represents the government’s best estimate of the actions it intends to take during the fiscal year and the revenues it expects to receive to finance these actions. Governmental leaders and officials have the important function of maintaining and implementing a sound, proposed budget process. This is essential to the budget process, and not just a matter of political leaders exercising their influence. The problem for the budgeting office is to make the need for their role clear to other representatives, stakeholders, and to the public on how the implementation process will be done. This indispensable responsibility cannot be passed out by subcommittees or committees because of the difficulty of reaching concurrence. The responsibility has to be centralized, and that is why it is important to have clear information on decisions on the budget and state financial programs with different levels of details that can be availed to the public. Such budget documents are of key significance to providing voters and lawmakers with well-timed and dependable information. They also contribute to building assurance in the provision of services by the government.

Assumptions and standards in the accounting system

The accounting system provides the information useful in making corrections to the budget during the year if revenues are lower than anticipated, or spending is greater than planned. The budget document provides the framework for accounting control. The interpretation of the budget as the planned and estimated financial structure and accounting system is in the actual transactions (such as deposit, payments, and operating expenditures). Accounting system compares revenues against expenditures to show the interested parties whether taxes and fees were adequate to cover budgeted expenditures. Budgets reflect the need to meet legal obligations.

Between the two systems, tension could exist if forecasted revenues and expenditures in the budget did not materialize. Interim financial reports, either monthly or quarterly, can help to identify the budget shortfalls. Continuous information for the accounting ledger helps to determine whether the budget is balanced. Balancing ensures that no funds are wasted while also keeping the minimum amounted available. Furthermore, it is vital for accounting system to be accurate, and financial reports should be timely. Failure to do a regular review of the deficits in the revenue and expenditure accounts can lead to dire financial ramifications such as huge losses or even bankruptcy of the Council’s reserves.

Reduced state expenditure

The level of public resources consumption by the state is a major issue among board that deliberates the amount of resources allocated to public firms. As was analyzed earlier, the public sector has more flexibility in determining the amount of resources they can get. State inefficiency and misappropriation of state resources is, however, a disadvantage that comes along with this priority. Within Tampa City, the processes taken for the allocation of funds to a particular project provide an opportunity for misappropriation. The solution would be to reduce the state’s presence in the budgetary allocation process. The concept of participatory budgeting is an excellent start that should be replicated in other functions within public offices.

Part III: Overall recommendations

Government Responsibility

The state is the sole proprietor of ensuring the needs of the public are met. Part of these needs include the economic interests that are expressed in various ways, the budget being one of the ways. The government should increase its responsibility in implementing an environment that is conducive for actualizing the projection in the Tampa budget. Some of the techniques in which the government can assist in doing this might be through eliminating the bureaucracy present in the implementation of projects such as time delays and embezzlement of funds.

Other improvements to the Tampa City budget process that will increase the quality and relevance of the document include:

  1. Provide more clear direction to department to ensure they know what is expected
  2. Have all departments participate in the scenario reductions
  3. Reduce the reliance on T & I department for budget reports
  4. Enforce department deadlines for budget submission
  5. Establish a better audit trail in data management system
  6. Improve decision time line for capital improvement projects
  7. Increase the number of staff to can assist with document publication
  8. Enhance the central data base to contain all historical accounting, budgeting, and position control
  9. Create a formalized revenue and forecast reporting system
  10. Invent in new budgeting system that can generate automate reports to reduce manual work.


This essay sought to illustrate the budgeting cycle within the Tampa City program as having the possible scenarios that would have various economic ramification if adopted. The essay also brought out the differences and similarities in private and public sectors, with the major component being flexibility of controlling the allocation of resources. The recommendations proposed on the way forward included the responsibility by the state to coordinate the budgetary process in order to achieve their overall objectives. Another recommendation was the increased presence of government in the making of budget and other economic decisions.


The budgetary and fiscal structure within Tampa City has been designed to provide elaborate methods through which the economic interests of the city can be realized. The separation of the political elite from the mainstream budgetary process is another commendable feature by the Tampa City executive. However, the low levels of integration of some of the elements of the Tampa City budget with those of the central government at Washington are alarming. The recent economic crisis of 2008 triggered an increase in the state’s presence in the economy. The approach by Tampa acts contrary to this directive by the state by infusing participatory ideas into the hands of the people. This promotes an idea of independence and faith in the power of the market forces that created the economic slump in the first place.


Iorio P., Sensible solutions in tough economic times

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