After hearing Tuesday about proposed city job cuts and other budget reductions, Tucson City Council members were mostly concerned some of the changes could diminish police, fire and park services.
But City Manager Richard Miranda assured the council that, while difficult, the changes are designed to bolster core public services while preparing the city for future budget challenges.
Miranda presented his preliminary plans to cut 92 positions and shave $25 million from departments to balance next year’s $27.2 million deficit.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the budget reflects economic constraints: “The days of having our cake and eating it, too, are over.” He said if council members want to tweak the proposal, they must identify where either the revenue or additional cuts will come from.
Councilwoman Regina Romero was leery of proposed cuts to public-safety and social-service programs. “These are services which directly cut our most vulnerable,” she said. “And they affect domestic-violence victims, children, the homeless, and lots of needed services.”
Since specific positions weren’t identified, she questioned whether Parks and Recreation cuts would disproportionately affect part-time and seasonal workers as opposed to what she called the department’s bloated management structure.
“Parks and Recreation was structured back in the cushy days when the city of Tucson had a lot of money,” Romero said.
Although 92 positions would get cut, it doesn’t mean 92 city employees will lose their jobs. So far, 35 of those positions are vacant. The employees whose jobs would be cut may apply for open positions within the city. Also, 29 job cuts are to employees who have civil service protections and are allowed to “bump” employees with less seniority.
Based on civil service rules, even though a higher-ranking employee might have his or her job cut, it doesn’t mean they would be the one “walking out the door,” City Attorney Mike Rankin said.
While $17 million of the $25 million in cuts derives from lower personnel costs, much of that comes from restructuring positions throughout departments.
For example, the Police Department is to receive a $6.6 million reduction. But the majority of those dollars come from unfilled positions. There will also be some restructuring of command positions, said TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor. The rest mostly comes from adjustments to overtime rules, which would prevent vacation or leave days from counting toward overtime pay.
A police union representative, Jason Winsky, said officers will continue to keep their overtime numbers down, but he worries a citywide rule change might create some unintended consequences.