The City of Phoenix may face a $26 to $52 million deficit in next year’s budget according to early projections, but city council members are urging city staff to find a way to make up the difference.

City staff presented a budget status to the city council during a policy session meeting on Jan. 28. According to their report, a slow economic recovery and rising costs are to blame for the possible deficit.

“I’m not surprised to see these numbers,” said Councilman Jim Waring during the presentation. “I’ve had concerns about our five year forecast and I have expressed those … I thought we were way overly optimistic in our projections. Realistically we’re expecting 7.5 percent growth this year. How many times in the last 28 years have we had that rate of growth? That sounds like a really robust year to me. That’s not the average.”

To overcome the deficit, staff said some possible options are reducing personnel costs, reducing internal and community services or increasing revenue. Waring told staff to find a way to cut expenses because asking for more revenue would be embarrassing.

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio asked city staff to come up with a complete report that lists the cost of employee sick leave, vacation time, restorations, deferred compensation, spiking, pay raises and release time.

“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have an expense problem and a priority problem in the city,” DiCiccio said. “You can’t blame the economy any longer. You can’t blame revenue because we’ve got an increase in revenue.”

The city’s official trial budget, which will be presented to the public, is not expected until March. That budget will have more exact numbers and proposals for adjustments. The city will hold community hearings about the budget in April.

A final budget will not be approved until June.

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