Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Our opinion: City budget – Cut spending, don’t rely on higher taxes

There is something for almost everyone in the budget proposal released by newly appointed City Manager Mike Letcher.

But city taxpayers won’t like what is in it for them: higher water bills, higher electric bills, higher trash collection fees and a new tax for renters. And no new services.

The higher charges are a sharp change from the direction proposed by ousted City Manager Mike Hein. He had suggested spending cuts in some areas popular with the City Council – cuts that have been eliminated or reduced in Letcher’s budget.

It is a change in direction that we don’t support – and we doubt taxpayers will, either.

Hein, for example, had proposed that the city reduce its spending on outside agencies by $4 million. Letcher has reduced that to a $1 million cut.

All of the outside agencies are worthwhile – such as the Community Food Bank, Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, 88-CRIME and numerous other human-service nonprofits.

But in difficult economic times – and these are the most difficult anyone can remember – the city needs to focus on core services.

Funding for outside agencies can certainly be reduced by the amount Hein recommended.

But outside agencies have the ear of council members and cutting them is politically unpopular. So the proposal is to raise taxes and keep funding the agencies.

The same is true of the Housing Trust Fund, which helps provide housing for low-income residents. That’s also worthwhile – and it also has strong support among some on the council.

Hein had recommended no city contribution to the fund in these tight times.

Letcher’s budget calls for a $2 million contribution – which will come from higher taxes.

And who would get taxed? Everyone. The proposed budget includes new and higher taxes on Tucson Water and Tucson Electric Power Co. – taxes that will be passed along to everyone who buys water and electricity.

The biggest new revenue source also will be the most controversial: a 2 percent tax on residential rentals imposed on all landlords with more than three units. The tax will certainly be passed along to renters.

Letcher estimates that will cost the average Tucson renter $144 per year. But that’s based on an average monthly rent of $600. A year ago, the average monthly rent for a Tucson apartment was $665.

Tucson is in bad financial shape. But instead of looking only at ways to rake in more money, the council must exercise some spending discipline, too.


The City Council will hold a hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal 2010 during its Tuesday meeting. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Tucson Convention Center downtown.

City budget: Cut spending,

don’t rely on higher taxes

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