The South Tucson City Council unanimously approved a tentative budget Monday night for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Councilmen Ildefonso Green and Oscar Patino were absent.
The vote capped the amount the city can spend next fiscal year at $10.2 million. About half of that amount is budgeted for the general fund, the pool of money used for core services such as public safety and public works.The council can still make changes to the budget as long as spending doesn’t exceed the cap. It must approve a final budget by June 30. No vote is yet scheduled.
The draft budget eliminates the city’s secondary property tax, which staff determined was improperly enacted in fiscal year 2011. It had been used to cover the city’s debt payments of about $600,000 a year. To compensate for that revenue loss, City Manager Luis Gonzales proposed increasing other taxes. In the draft, the hotel/motel occupancy tax would increase from 4.5 percent to 8 percent, and taxes on other industries, including restaurants, bars and construction, would go up 2 percentage points.
The primary property tax would not rise, and the tax on food for home consumption would drop from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent. Bashas’ Supermarkets recently appealed to the council for a food-tax break, saying South Tucson’s Food City store was in danger of closing if it could not turn a profit.
Although state law requires cities to complete an audit of their financial statements within six months of the close of the fiscal year, South Tucson’s fiscal year 2013 audit is still not completed. In response to a public records request, the city manager declined to provide the initial submittal from the auditor, Fester Chapman, saying it was “a document in flux.”
There is no exemption for drafts under Arizona’s public-records law, said Dan Barr, an attorney specializing in public-records law at Perkins Coie in Phoenix. That’s especially true if the document is being used to inform city decisions, he said.