What's in, what's out: City must finish budget tweaks by May 20

2014-05-12T00:00:00Z What's in, what's out: City must finish budget tweaks by May 20By Darren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tucson is winding down its budget process for the next fiscal year.

While most of the original $33 million deficit has been closed, tweaks will continue to be made over the next few weeks as revenue and expense projections get updated and the City Council weighs in.

Here’s a look at some of the changes to the proposed $1.25 billion budget as of last week.

WHAT’S IN:

  • An extra $500,000 for Parks and Recreation.
  • Some council members chaffed at the steep cuts suggested for parks and asked the City Manager’s Office for the cash infusion. The extra dollars saved eight jobs in the parks department, which means only about 16 positions will now be cut from the department. The money also will go toward fixing up various parks and improving conditions at 130 athletic fields.
  • Natural Gas Renovation Project.
  • Plans to lower the city’s fuel costs for garbage trucks and buses that run on natural gas were put on hold when council members balked at the proposed $980,000 general-fund contribution.

Staff reworked the numbers, so now no portion of the $13.4 million project will be paid out of the general fund next year. The project will be paid by grants ($3.9 million), issuing $3.4 million in debt, and Environmental Service dollars ($5.7 million).

The project will replace the 20-year-old fueling station at the city’s Thomas Price Service Center, 4004 S. Park Ave., and take about 18 months to complete.

WHAT’S OUT:

  • Nine General Service Department Jobs.
  • To offset the extra $500,000 from parks, the city eliminated 6 vacant positions and three probationary positions within General Services. The remaining $240,000 in savings came from reducing on-call costs and dumping a plan to restore some deferred services.
  • A $15 hike to the business license fee.
  • Staff recommended increasing the fee from $45 to $60 a year to put an additional $500,000 in the city’s coffers. Staff is now proposing a $5 increase.

But Councilman Richard Fimbres said it was sending the wrong message to businesses at time when the city wants them to grow. Staff proposed the more modest $5 increase as a compromise.

WHAT’S NEXT:

Because they dropped the proposed business license fee increase, staff must close a roughly $330,000 hole before the May 20 meeting. At that same meeting the council is slated to vote on adopting a tentative budget.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for June 3. While a final vote on the budget is also scheduled for June 3, the council doesn’t legally have to adopt one until June 30.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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