When the Tucson City Council adopts a $1.25 billion budget Tuesday, we hope beleaguered taxpayers will merit the concern of some members of the council.
Yes, the city has substantial needs for basic services. But with the city budget projected to increase by 14 percent, there are opportunities for savings that likely will be overlooked when the spending plan is adopted.
The budget to be OK’d is for fiscal 2008, which begins July 1.
City Manager Mike Hein points out that much of the additional spending is in key areas: $3.4 million to repair 16 miles of city streets, $6 million for 40 police officers and support functions, $4.8 million for 45 firefighters and paramedics and $1.8 million to improve maintenance and programs for parks.
That adds up to $16 million. The city budget includes an additional $150 million above this fiscal year’s levels.
There will be raises for city employees. And there will be more money in the capital budget to pay for programs carried forward from last year’s budget because they were not completed.
But the budget for Hein’s own office is up by $4 million – a 40 percent increase.
Some of that is explained by the shifting of Rio Nuevo oversight functions to Hein’s office. But that isn’t a $4 million line item.
The City Council’s own budget also is slated for a substantial increase.
In the current budget, each council member and the mayor spend an average of $440,000 per year to run his or her office. In the proposed budget, that’s up to $485,000 per office – a 10 percent increase.
That’s $3.4 million to run the offices of the mayor and six council members – a one-year increase of $45,000 for each office.
That’s not a huge amount of money in a $1.25 billion budget – but we would wager that your household income didn’t increase by $45,000 last year – or by 10 percent.
That’s indicative of our problem with the budget as a whole: The plight of taxpayers has been for the most part overlooked.
Millions in spending on public libraries has been shifted from the city to Pima County, but there has not been a corresponding decrease in city spending to compensate.
In August 2004, the city increased the trash collection fee from $2 to $14 per month – a move that raised more than $20 million per year. But there was no corresponding decrease in spending in other areas.
It is likely that on Tuesday the $1.25 billion budget will be approved.
We hope there are at least a few murmurs of discontent heard from some on the council.
Be assured, there will be murmurs heard from taxpayers.