As this year progresses, there are many things of note to report on for this newsletter.
The Mayor and Council have begun their discussions about the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2013. This budget would go into effect, July 1 of this year and go till June 30, 2013. Prior to these discussions, Kelly Gottschalk, the City’s Chief Financial Officer and Marie Nemerguth, the City’s Budget Director, met with the respective Council offices and Mayor’s office. So far to date, two presentations have been made to the Mayor and Council about the projected revenues and the City Manager’s proposed plan for the next Fiscal Year’s budget.
According to City staff, the projected budget deficit would be around $15 million for Fiscal Year 2013. Since becoming your Councilmember, sworn in on December 7, 2009, this is the fourth budget deficit that has had to be dealt with. On December 15, 2009, the Mayor and Council were informed that there was a shortfall of $33.5 million for that current Fiscal Year (FY 2010). A few months later, it was a $44.5 million dollar budget deficit for FY 2011 and a $55 million dollar deficit for FY 2012.
With this year’s proposal and projected budget deficit, we are beginning to see “light at the end of the tunnel,” but there is still work to be done, especially in the areas of health insurance and pension funds, as well as fuel costs for transit for this proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2013.
City Manager Richard Miranda reported to Mayor and Council, that the workforce has been reduced by 900 positions, or 22% of the overall workforce since 2009. He added that this action, as well as the furloughs taken, had a result of not being able to respond to the needs of the citizens as quickly through the reduction of services.
In the past two years alone, more than $69 million dollars in state shared revenues were swept from Tucson, as well as $17 million in LTAF (Local Transportation Assistance Funds). State shared sales tax revenues went down, by a total of $16 million in the past two years as well. State shared income tax was down by $26 million for these two past years as well.
Despite all this, no public safety employees were laid off during this time. The City used efficiencies, such as the P-Card program, brought forward by my office, to help save funds.
This Mayor and Council made changes to the Land Use Code and approved my proposal to streamline the Certificate of Occupancy process, spurring more development by business, to the tune of more than $430 million in commercial development and construction permits during these past 16 months since the changes started going into effect (from August 2010 on).
City spending was reduced by a total of $18 million, for 2010 and 2011.
Thanks to the wonderful work of Chief Financial Officer and Interim Assistant City Manager, Kelly Gottschalk, more than $10 million was saved by the refinancing of Capital Improvement, General Obligation, and Water Bonds that had previously been issued.
For this upcoming budget, City Manager Miranda has undertaken a line-item by line-item review of the City budget with each Department Director. This process provided the City Manager with an understanding of the detailed work program of each department, and has aided in identifying new savings, efficiency, and funding opportunities.
Projected revenues and the City Manager’s proposals have been the topics discussed in this process. Next will be the discussion of core services (police, fire, streets, parks and transit). Mayor and Council questions are being reviewed and the answers provided before a proposed, recommended budget will be presented and discussed on April 24.
All documents and questions posed will be on my website, Facebook and blog. If you have any questions, E-mail them to email@example.com, subject line: budget questions.
POST OFFICE UPDATE
On February 23rd, while Tucson was enjoying the 87th Annual Rodeo Parade, the U.S. Postal Service announced their intention to close the Cherrybell Processing and Distribution Center.
This was expected since the way the U.S. Postal Service scheduled the meeting during the Christmas Holidays, limiting the time of the meeting, making people pay for parking, cutting off public comment at the meeting, as well as asking for only written comment for two weeks afterward. Despite this, more than 600 people attended and more than 1,200 people wrote in. For those people who wrote in, they had received a reply for the Postal Service that a decision would be delayed until May.
Tucson and Southern Arizona are showing that they are opposed to this proposal from the U.S. Postal Service.
The ongoing effort by the businesses, the public sector and non-profit organizations to keep the Cherrybell Processing and Distribution Center continues and will do so through May. By no means does this announcement mean this will happen. There are bills pending in the U.S. Congress, as well as the potential complaint, and possible review by the U.S. Justice Department.
Every Southern Arizonan must speak up to the entire Arizona Congressional Delegation to act on this now. In addition, they must speak up to the Postmaster General, as well as the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, to let them know the 15th largest facility, serving more than 1.5 million and have people and 23,197 businesses, must remain open. An online petition has been set up for people to sign a petition, opposing the closure. It is directed to the Postmaster General and Board of Governors. It is located at, http://www.change.org/petitions/usps-postmaster-general-and-board-of-governors-dont-close-cherrybell-processing-and-distribution-center.
In addition to the more than 300 jobs, this affects the 23,197 businesses in Arizona, especially those that use the processing center for their mass mailing if this decision goes through. These businesses would lose their mailing discount offered by the U.S. Postal Service, as well as potentially passing along their costs to send their mailing to Phoenix, to the consumer. This is what postal service officials said during the meetings held in Tucson on December 28, 2011.
If Cherrybell is closed, costs to mail packages, letters or otherwise would rise. Social Security checks and other similar financial measures would be delayed. Prescriptions would be delayed. Government costs to mail their various items would increase. Overnight, two day or quicker delivery for First Class postage would cease for Tucson and Southern Arizona. The 23,197 local businesses in Tucson and Southern Arizona, who may use mail order and had used Cherrybell, would have to pay more for shipping and postage.
These businesses would also be impacted by the loss of the processing center, including the impact of Tucson's economic potential with businesses looking to expand or relocate, considering the loss of the 15th largest processing center, if it is closed. In addition, vote-by-mail would be severely affected. The City of Tucson just initiated this process to conduct its elections in 2011.
The Pima County Recorder, as well as the Tucson City Clerk, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice on this proposal, since it would disenfranchise the voting population, especially those using vote-by-mail, which is prevalent in Arizona. The Phoenix postmaster has admitted that the Phoenix Processing Center cannot handle all the vote-by-mail for the state and city elections.
If this proposal goes through, Arizona, which has more population than 15 states, would have equal to or fewer processing centers than Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina. Our Congressional delegation is involved with this effort to keep the processing center open for Southern Arizona, and so should every citizen and business owner in Southern Arizona.
The work on the new Wal-Mart Super Center has started, with 250 to 300 people working on the construction of the 156,000 retail outlet at the Bridges. Several Tucson Subcontractors are involved in this project, and they include: A-1 Striping, Cascade Electric, Conway Tile, Gale Contractor Services, Hardrock Concrete, Meridian Surveying, Qualified Mechanical, Security Fence of Arizona and Westar Environmental.
87TH ANNUAL RODEO AND PARADE A SUCCESS!
More than 200,000 turned out to watch the 87th annual Tucson Rodeo Parade. I want to thank Herb Wagner, Bob Stewart and the rest of the parade committee for their wonderful work and for KOLD Channel 13, for broadcasting this year’s parade live. I want to thank the committee for providing a free carriage, so that I could participate in the event.
According to the rodeo committee, 60,000 people attended the rodeo over nine days - this included six full performances, and three slack days. Based on previous surveys, about 35-40% of attendees are visitors from outside our state. The rodeo also had 4,000 school children attend our REACh program (Rodeo Education and Children). This is a free program offered to area schools. A total of 635 contestants competed in the Tucson Rodeo; the total purse was $430,000. Excellent weather helped our attendance this year; the previous two years saw wind, rain and even snow.
MORE POOLS TO BE OPEN FOR SUMMER THANKS TO BRING BACK THE SPLASH!
On Friday, March 2, Mayor Rothschild, Vice Mayor Uhlich, I and several Tucson businesses, Tucson Parks and Rec Foundation and Fred Gray and his staff, took part in the Bring Back the Splash press conference.
More than $60,000 in sponsorships has been obtained so far. My thanks to those businesses who helped to open Palo Verde and Himmel pools, bringing the total of six more pools to be open this summer. This is a good start for this first year effort.
Back in February of 2011, when I brought the proposal to allow Parks and Rec to solicit advertising and sponsorship, this is what I had in mind, both the private and public sectors working together for the betterment of our community. For 25 years, this collaboration had been prohibited by city ordinance, and I want to thank my colleagues on the Mayor and Council for lifting this and allowing efforts such as this to begin and to flourish.
Bringing Back the Splash and Adopting a Swimmer will not be a one time thing, this is a program and effort that will continue and will benefit everyone in Tucson.
I want to thank Doug Martin with Good News Communications, Rick Stertz with 4tucson and Crissy Perham with the Tucson Padres for the support, work, and commitment. Without them, this would not have happened. I want to thank the Tucson Parks and Recreation Foundation for their support and efforts on this campaign as well. To all the others who helped put the PSA and solicited funds, Tucson thanks you.
IN OTHER NEWS
My staff and I, had the opportunity to read to students at Cavett, Esperanza and Warren Elementary Schools for Love of Reading Week. I want to thank the staff, at those schools for their commitment to education, as well as the volunteers committed to the Love of Reading Week program.
I had the honor and privilege of participating in the 74th Annual Tohono O’odham Nation Rodeo and Fair, in Sells. The Tohono O’odham Nation Rodeo and Fair is Arizona’s longest, all Indian rodeo. I want to thank Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris, and the organizers of this year’s Rodeo and Fair.
The 2012 Desert Diamond Cup featured the L.A. Galaxy, the New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake and New York Red Bulls. This soccer tournament took place at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, located in Ward 5. Congratulations to FC Tucson for their work, and to our community, for their support of the second annual event.
The University of Arizona Wildcats baseball team has opened their season at Hi Corbett Field. Great crowds and baseball have taken place. Congratulations to the Wildcats and Andy Lopez for their season so far. Tickets can be ordered online at arizonawildcats.com or by calling 621-2287 or 800-452-2287.
With the temperatures getting warmer, the effort to work on Tucson’s streets begins again. If you have potholes to report, please call my office, 791-4231 and let my staff know where they are located, so that they can be reported to the Streets Department.
Tucson Padres Opening Night is on Thursday, April 5. Season tickets, weekend plans and voucher packages are now available by calling (520) 434-1367. For more information, you can visit tucsonpadres.com.
I want to say thanks to Cindy Ayala and Betty Trahan of Pueblo Gardens Neighborhood Association, Willie Blake of Western Hills II Neighborhood Association, Maggie Gerring with South Park Neighborhood Association, Barbara Lewis with the Tucson Urban League, Rebecca Rupp with Housing and Community Development, Tucson Police Department (TPD) Captain Bill Richards and Anita Smith Etheridge, for a productive meeting in dealing with the Allen Hall facility, for which the use by TPD will benefit the neighborhoods, Ward 5 and the community.
I want to thank Graffiti Protective Coatings (GPC), for their continuing work in dealing with the City’s graffiti issues. In addition, a special thanks to the Fred Acosta Job Center, who has volunteered to work on graffiti abatement as well, and is being trained by GPC for this effort for our community.
Congratulations to the Tucson Urban League for their 41st Annual Silent Auction and Gala, which was held on March 3. For more information about the Urban League, go online to tucsonurbanleague.com.
Efforts are ongoing presently to reach a solution in dealing with the structure at 909 East 22nd Street. Tucson’s Code Enforcement has gone after the property owner and discussions are underway to deal with the building itself.
Construction is ramping up for Tucson’s Streetcar, which is funded through various grants. In the short term, there may be delays in getting around the area where the first part of the route will be, due to the construction. Tucson will benefit from this project in the long term. For more information about the project, contact Max Torres, 837-6693 or Joan Beckim or Joshua Weaver at 624-5656. All information and documentation about this project is online at tucsonmodernstreetcar.com.
Richard G. Fimbres
Your Ward V Councilmember