Final city budget includes increased efficiencies - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Final city budget includes increased efficiencies

DiCiccio says employee pay raises could have restored services instead

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Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:53 pm | Updated: 6:46 am, Mon Sep 8, 2014.

The Phoenix City Council will vote on the final draft of the city’s 2013-14 budget, which includes new efficiencies in the city’s public information office, parks and public transit, on May 21 but Councilman Sal DiCiccio says the city could have increased even more services if staff didn’t get any raises or bonuses.

City Manager David Cavazos presented his final budget to council members on Tuesday. He said more than 300 comments were received from the public during public budget hearings and an additional 230 comments were received during the city’s online budget hearing. From those comments the city identified some priorities: public safety, bike infrastructure, restoration of Phoenix After-School Centers (PAC), additional support for job training programs and additional park rangers in parks and mountain preserves.

The city manager’s new budget would reduce three positions in the public information office, implement outsourcing pilot of mowing services in the northwest division of the parks department and implement outsourcing of Reserve-a-Ride through a voucher program.

Those efficiencies allow the city to seek additional grants to hire up to 25 police officers, develop a comprehensive infrastructure plan to add bike lanes and paths, restore two additional after-school sites in 2013-14, provide some extra funding toward the city’s job training program, add two park rangers, find land for a Cesar Chavez Community Center, and buy more equipment for graffiti clean-up.

The fact that city employees took a 3.2 percent pay cut in the past to help the city budget and only 1.6 percent of that has been restored was brought up. Greta Rogers of Ahwatukee Foothills asked city staff and the City Council why restoring the other 1.6 percent was not included in this budget.

DiCiccio says though the city may give it a different name like “merit” and “longevity,” city employees have been getting pay raises and bonuses every year. If employees hadn’t gotten those benefits DiCiccio is quick to point out the food tax could have been removed.

According to city staff there’s approximately $52 million in the budget going to employee pay raises — $29.9 built into the current budget for merit and longevity and an additional $23 million from last year’s restorations.

“What a person says and what they do is important,” DiCiccio said.

He asked specifically, how many police officers could $52 million hire? How many firefighters could $52 million hire? How many after-school programs could be restored? Libraries could be back to normal with increased service with $52 million. Senior programs could be restored with $52 million?

City staff did say the food tax represents $54 million in this budget.

The City Council will vote on the final budget at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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