Thursday, May 26, 2011

The FY 2012 COT Budget - Why I Supported It

These past two years have been very difficult because of the economic downturn that has hit everyone across the country and during my time as the Ward 5 Councilmember, we have had to deal with three budgetary deficits and we balanced the City’s budget each time, recently on May 24, by a 6 to 1 vote, approving the final budget.

The first action for the FY 2012 occurred during the study session of the Mayor and Council meeting of December 14, 2010, when this Mayor and Council, unanimously approved recommendations made to reduce the police and fire budgets (7.5% and 6.7%), so that no active police and firefighters were laid off and no stations were closed.

Tucson’s police and firefighter associations, as well as other labor groups and associations, helped to draft and supported these budgetary proposals. The budget’s for both public service departments make up close to 62% of the general fund budget, totaling $423 million.

The City of Tucson has reduced its work force by more than 1,000 positions through attrition and retirements, bring its workforce to the same size it was back in 1995.

In addition, more than 30 administrative and management positions were eliminated in this budget, saving more than $3.0 million in salaries and benefits. Current employees have taken a 3.5% pay reduction by taking nine, unpaid furlough days.

This City of Tucson, Fiscal Year 2012 budget, did not burden those who can least afford it, with a renter’s tax.

Small businesses who are trying to stay afloat during these tough economic times were not burdened either when the Mayor and Council rejected proposals for an advertising tax, increase in business license fees, as well as a land speculation tax.

This Mayor and Council approved increases to the rates for Sun Tran fares. The Transit Task Force was extended two additional years, providing additional time for the Transit Task Force to continue examining the overall “health” of the system, exploring alternative funding options, and developing a five-year plan for transit services and fares.

Arizona’s Legislature also had a hand in the budgetary process when they swept more than $10 million in Arizona HURF and LTAF funding for roads, as well as $69 million in state shared revenue for the past two fiscal years.

During these times, this Mayor and Council took positive action to help encourage businesses and economic growth for Tucson. Tucson’s Certificates of Occupancy requirements were simplified and streamlined through proposals brought by my office.

Other changes made by the Mayor and Council include rewriting the Land Use Code, changing the rules for business signs and for parking space requirements.

These changes resulted in more than $220 million in commercial construction and development permits being taken out for projects in the City of Tucson since these new proposals went into effect in August 2010.

In addition, this Mayor and Council made decisions, changing course from previous actions from previous Mayor and Council’s, so that city government can meet the needs during these current times.

My office brought forward a measure to allow Sun Tran to have more advertising on the inside and outside of their buses, as well as their fare guides, ticket passes and any other materials. This measure will help in cost recovery for the fare box and to alleviate the general fund expenditure for the bus service in the long run.

Sun Tran is also saving money through Mayor and Council directed utilization of the procurement card (P-Card), for their transactions and vendor payments – a potential savings of up to $300,000.

In addition, with the lifting of the restrictions on advertising on Sun Tran buses, at least six buses will have the bus wraps, to the tune of more than $100,000.

The City of Tucson’s use of the procurement card (P-Card) process is being expanded by city departments for their purchases of materials or payments, potentially saving the taxpayers in the millions of dollars.

Parks and Recreation are now able to solicit advertising and sponsorships thanks to the Mayor and Council approving the proposal my office brought forward to repeal the restrictions that were in the City Code - another potential revenue stream to help preserve Parks and Recreation programs and services while alleviating the general fund expenditure.

Contrary to what has been reported, the City of Tucson has a debt restructuring for $9.5 million in the spring of 2012, if the land sales do not come through and presently, there are a couple of parcels which have received interested and could bring in more than $7 million.

To date, this Mayor and Council have taken the action to balance the budget for this fiscal year. It is a fair budget for these tough economic times. This is only part of what is needed. We must, in turn, stimulate the economic engine to make the City move again. This Mayor and Council have made the changes and more are on the way, so that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner.