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Street repair, more public safety, even pay raises proposed for new Tucson budget

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Street repair, more public safety, even pay raises proposed for new Tucson budget

CREATED Mar 6, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - More street repair, more police and firefighters, even a small employee pay raise--they're all things the city of Tucson is working to build into the new city budget.

Taxpayers tend to believe all government is wasteful but the city of Tucson staff would suggest the city's been on a near starvation diet for several years.
    
Now City Manager Richard Miranda is proposing a budget to start bringing back basic services and even working towards a modest raise to keep employees on board to deliver those services.

City services have been squeezed ever since the economy crashed, sales tax income fell, and state government started cutting back funding it sends down from Phoenix.

Now sales tax income is up slightly, so is revenue shared by state government. Some other complex municipal money shuffling offers the hope of restoring city services cut back over the past few years.
       
City manager Richard Miranda's proposal would put more money into fixing crumbling streets, hiring and training more firefighters and police, improving parks, and even giving a one percent raise to employees who haven't seen a hike since 2008.
    
The budget is still about 15 million short of being in balance.  But Miranda and the budget specialists have ideas of where to find that money.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild: "You've got roads, you've got police and fire, you've got employee pay.  If you can't cover all of those what will the priorities end up being?" 

Mayor Rothschild: "All council people probably have a different idea.  For me it goes, police, fire, roads, our water and our sanitation cover themselves, so it's really looking at parks and transit."

Smith asked City Manager Richard Miranda: "Sometimes you run into people who resent the idea of employee pay going up in any fashion until they're happy with the state of their streets or police protection and so on. Is the pay raise, even a one percent salable under these conditions?" 

Miranda: "Well, I think so.  I think it has to be complicated that our employees, city employees, over the last four or five years have sacrificed a lot.  And when you start looking at service delivery.  I am down hundreds of people than I was years ago.  I'm having to have employees do more work with less people and that affects service quality."

If the city is able to grant that one percent raise for employees it'll balance against a two and a half percent jump in employee benefit costs.
    
In the past few years, the city has cut payroll expenses by requiring furloughs---unpaid days off that cut into employee paychecks.

The council will consider more formal versions of the budget in coming weeks, with the goal to have a budget approved in June, to take effect in July.