Once again over 50 people attended our monthly "community conversation". We've started holding these regular, open gatherings in November, 2008 to strengthen the public's opportunity to provide budget input (see budget adoption timeline below). My thanks to Mary Okoye, Director Intergovernmental Affairs, and Marie Nemeugeuth, Assistant City Manager overseeing budget development, for attending to present and help field questions.
We had a very dynamic discussion during Monday's session on the federal stimulus package. Please check our website on April 15, as we will have scanned spreadsheets on the City's efforts to draw down stimulus resources posted there. We'll also work with City management to create a central site for updates and information to be offered to the public.
While we expect the stimulus money to help prevent job losses in our community, the targeted funds are very unlikely to offer a sustainable way of balancing the City's budget. Substantial cuts have been approved and implemented over the past two years (the Mayor summarized recently by saying that City staffing has gone from 6100 employees in 2004 to 5300 for the coming year, a 16% reduction). Last month I reduced the full time staffing in my office from 6 to 5 (also a 16% reduction). It's clear we have to look at both sides of the budget equation - just as the Governor has advocated at the state level - to make ends meet.
Attached are the revenue streams outlined in our discussion on Monday, as well as the "ratings" offered by those present (#'s who believe a revenue merits further exploration and #'s who believe a revenue stream would best be left off the table).
In addition I asked those present another question: Would you support a ¼-cent sales tax dedicated to public safety? Another option discussed was for any funds raised through other sources (e.g. rental tax) beyond the amount required to balance the budget and restore our reserves to be applied to public safety. 90% of respondents indicated they would support action toward establishing a dedicated revenue source for public safety.
Mayor and Council has been engaged in in-depth discussion leading up to the planned date for the Manager to present his recommended budget (April 21). Several public hearings will be held leading up to Mayor and Council adoption of the budget scheduled to take place this June. Our "Community Conversations" and input received during scheduled public hearings will certainly guide the positions I take.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments with me as we work diligently to meet the timeline for the coming fiscal year budget. As you know we have also been grappling with challenges in the current fiscal year in response to economic trends.
I am confident that we can navigate this very difficult time while fulfilling our responsibility to remain both transparent and accountable each step of the way. Criticism is inevitable and expected any time we take action. I will not shy away from the tough decisions ahead, and will always keep the public's interest central in my thinking.
Public Safety Survey Results
Would you support at ¼ cent sales tax dedicated to public safety?
-Dedicated funding is fine but I don't agree with doing it through regressive taxes like a sales tax. Tax those most able to pay.
-But make it between Sept 21 till March 21
-With an assurance that current budget % cannot be further reduced or used as a budget replacement.
-Only if its ear marked specifically for fire & police and in addition to funds already available.
-Make sure not to supplement other funds.
-But would prefer a luxury tax.
-Not used any other way.
-RTA funds are being diverted Rio Nuevo funds are being diverted, dedicated income stream?
BIENNIAL BUDGET CALENDAR FISCAL YEAR 2009/2010
April 21, 2009 - Submission of the City Manager's Recommended Biennial Budget for Fiscal Year 2010 to Mayor and Council.
April 28, 2009 - Public hearing on City of Tucson Recommended Budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
May 4, 2009 - Public hearing on Recommended Biennial Budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
May 12 & May 19, 2009 - Mayor and Council Study Sessions for the purpose of discussing the Recommended Biennial Budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
June 2, 2009 - Tentative Adoption of Recommended Biennial Budget for Fiscal Year 2010.
June 9, 2009 - Public Hearing on the Biennial Budget for Fiscal Year 2010 as Tentatively Adopted. And Truth in Taxation Hearing on primary property tax levy for Fiscal Year 2010.
June 9, 2009 - Special Mayor and Council meeting for the purpose of final budget adoption.
June 23, 2009 - Adoption of Fiscal Year 2010 property tax levies.