The South Tucson City Council last week rejected two proposals to raise revenues despite continued concerns about its ability to pay its bills in the long term.
The decision followed months of hand-wringing over how the city would tackle a $500,000 budget deficit for the next fiscal year.
The council eventually backed a proposal to cut staffing in the police and fire departments, slow down pension payments and use its entire rainy-day fund to balance the budget.
Mayor Ildefonso Green said the timing of the twin tax proposals — an increase of the city’s rental tax or a new bond issue backed by property taxes — wasn’t right.
The proposals would have required voter approval.
He openly worried that five months (for a November vote) to educate residents of the 1-square-mile town about the proposals wasn’t enough time.
“This should have been done back in December,” Green said to the city staff at a council meeting two weeks ago.
Green said last week he was concerned that if voters rejected the tax increases, it would tie the hands of the City Council for years to come. “I am not willing to chance to lose it,” Green said.
Councilman Robert Larribas echoed similar concerns.
“We need more time to educate ourselves about this,” Larribas said. “It would probably be better to wait until next year.”
The two proposals have been at the forefront of council discussions on long-term solutions to address declining tax revenues.
The council briefly discussed “aggressive economic development” last week, but did not elaborate on specific proposals.
City officials have been eyeing the redevelopment of roughly 70 acres in South Tucson along Interstate 10, which would include Tucson Greyhound Park and several other neighboring properties.
However, it would take several years before the city would see revenues from a massive redevelopment project.
The city’s finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, said while town service levels have not taken significant hits, the city has cut staffing to the bone to balance the budget.
“There are not many options left on the table,” Aguirre told the council.
City Manager Sixto Molina was more blunt at a recent meeting, telling the council that unless it finds ways to increase revenues the “city is going to cease to exist.”
Sales taxes in Southern Arizona
|Jurisdiction||State sales tax||County sales tax||City sales tax||Total|
|Regional Transportation Authority (in Pima County)||0.5%|
|Santa Cruz County||5.6%||1.0%||6.6%|