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Council members won’t dole out special funds

Citizen Staff Writer



The Tucson City Council has decided to give up most of the money each ward office usually gets to decide how to disburse.

The move will shunt more than $3 million for ward office budgets back into general city programs, according to Budget Department figures.

About $275,000 will go back into Tucson’s general operating budget, which has an estimated $80 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In a memo supporting the plan, Councilwoman Shirley Scott wrote, “In light of the City’s budget situation, we believe that funds the Mayor & Council offices use for various neighborhood, community and youth projects will have greater community impact if used as one pool of funds through central city departments for fiscal year 2010.”

Taxpayer watchdogs have questioned whether the money was best used at the discretion of council members who rely on the neighborhood groups and nonprofits that receive the money for political support.

As a result of the council’s unanimous vote Feb. 10, each council member will go without the $5,000 previously available to contribute to nonprofits and special events. In the process, the council will return $35,000 to the city general fund.

Each office’s Youth Employment Funding will be zeroed out, sending a collective $240,000 back to the general fund.

The biggest money transfer comes from the council’s Back to Basics funds, which neighborhood associations applied for to pay for area infrastructure and housing improvements.

That pot of money – totalling about $2.8 million, or $400,000 per ward office – is comprised of federal Community Development Block Grant funds and money the state collects from the gas tax.

The two funding sources attach spending restrictions on the money such as area income and the types of improvements made.

Councilwoman Regina Romero said at the Feb. 10 meeting that decision was difficult.

“These funds have done a lot of good,” she said.

Neighborhoods, though pained by the loss of funds, are sympathetic.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing, but it’s perfectly understandable,”said Jeff DiGregorio, president of the Iron Horse Neighborhood Association.

“In the meantime, our goal is to take more control of our neighborhood” through taking on park maintenance and graffiti abatement responsibilities from the city, he said.

Council gives back discretionary funds

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