The City Council, on a 6-3 vote, approved extending the city’s current 2 percent sales tax to food for the next five years, in the hopes of raising $60 million a year and reducing layoffs and budget cuts.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio voted against the move, which could take effect April 1, saying it was the easy way out of the current budget jam.
“I’m disappointed. The city of Phoenix had a great chance to reform the way it does business and passed on that. Instead, the burden of solving the budget problem was put on the back of the people,” DiCiccio said.
Mel Flake, a retired California corrections sergeant, opposed the move.
“I think it’s terrible. You have all these seniors, and they aren’t getting a cost-of-living increase for two years,” said Flake, who was at the Ahwatukee Foothills Senior Center Wednesday morning.
Plus, said Flake, it’s not clear where the money will go.
“How do we know it won’t go to Jack Harris who’s milking the system,” a reference to Public Safety Director Jack Harris who retired as the city’s police chief, then was rehired a month later as a public safety manager and is collecting his retirement while being paid.
Tami Waters didn’t know the city didn’t already tax food and was ambivalent about another $2 added to every $100 of food she buys.
“I guess it’s OK, if it helps,” said Waters as she walked out of a supermarket Wednesday morning.
But she said it was just one more economic burden she will have to juggle.
“I’ve already had my pay and my hours cut. I guess this is just one more thing. But I don’t know. It’s got to get better,” Waters said.
The vote late Tuesday came with virtually no public input and just the minimum 24-hour notice that the issue would be brought up.
Afterward Mayor Phil Gordon insisted that depending on the outcome of public budget hearings, set to start next week, that the proposal could change.
But DiCiccio doubts that the city would reverse course on a new revenue stream in favor of salary cuts, privatization of services or the elimination of departments.
“It is done. I don’t see the city turning back,” he said. “I’m very disappointed.”