Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

No excuse for city fiscal confusion at this late date

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

As businesses close, unemployment rates climb and newly disenfranchised Americans erect tent cities across our nation, Tucson officials have just figured out that the city’s savings are almost depleted.


News of this sudden realization Tuesday is less than reassuring, despite City Manager Mike Hein’s extensive explanations about confusing terminology and how budget officials figure differently than finance officials, whose numbers are different than those of department accountants.

We’re sorry, but where does the buck stop if not with Hein?

The city of Tucson now has accumulated millions of dollars in debt that will draw down its savings to 2.5 percent of discretionary spending – one-fourth of the City Council’s stated goal.

And with savings levels this low, the city could face higher interest rates when it borrows money.

“You’re not alone in finding out the gravity of the numbers at this late date,” Hein told council members Tuesday.

That’s little consolation to Tucson taxpayers, who count on city officials to have some clue as to how to handle their money.

But Tuesday’s City Council meeting disclosed more than another set of grim financial figures.

It also revealed city leaders’ disturbing lack of attentiveness to budget details and disappointingly lax responsibility for fiscal matters.

If, indeed, three different categories of city fiscal overseers have been miscommunicating in three separate languages, such egregious nonsense should have been identified and righted long ago.

Instances such as these continue to erode public confidence – if any remains – in Tucson’s business dealings, including but not limited to the Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment.

And the pathetic explanation for these oversights only further fuels doubts among legislators, who are threatening to withdraw the tax-increment financing that supports Rio Nuevo developments.

That would be a catastrophe for Tucson, which finally has begun to make some progress downtown.

But it would be somewhat understandable, given our city officials’ amateurish and nonchalant approach to financial matters.

In Tucson and across America, people are carefully counting their pennies amid record job losses and home foreclosure rates.

Today’s financial challenges are extremely serious, and city officials need to address them in that regard.

Trying to blame confusing terminology for a lack of accountability is far too little, far too late. Such sloppiness among public officials is unacceptable.

As people lose jobs and homes, our city officials nonchalantly admit their ignorance over how to budget our tax dollars.

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