City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has warned that Phoenix residents could see significant property and other tax increases – or face service cuts – in the budget being prepared for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins July 1 and has called for a curtailment in light-rail expansion plans.
The warning came after a City Council hearing last week in which city officials disclosed that they face as much as a $5-billion deficit because of the unfunded pension liability for retired police and firefighters.
“In the real world, people get fired for doing this stuff. In politics, they ask for a promotion,” DiCiccio posted in his report to constituents, referring to the fact that Mayor Greg Stanton is eyeing a run for a Congressional seat and Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who wants to replace Stanton at City Hall.
DiCiccio said he favors taking money for light-rail expansion and using it to pay down the city’s pension debt.
“Every light rail line we have costs a fortune to operate, and only recovers a fraction of those costs in fares,” he said, stating that three new light rail lines “will increase those costs exponentially.”
“We can’t afford to expand our light rail system, because we can’t afford to pay to run those trains once the work is complete,” he said.
DiCiccio said increases in real estate levy and possibly the food tax were practically inevitable because cuts in public safety or parks spending would be politically more unpopular.
“They know perfectly well that we can’t afford to lose even a single additional cop or firefighter. They know our citizens have paid for the right to drive on well-maintained streets, to have nice parks and preserves to enjoy,” he said. “So, this is about raising your taxes. Because that’s all they ever want from our citizens: more money.”
DiCiccio said the advent of self-driving cars suggested that light rail may become obsolete, “and investing in major infrastructure projects only makes sense if the things we build are used for decades on end. It doesn’t make sense in any way for to continue down this path.”