Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio says plans to cut nearly $15 million from the cash-strapped city budget by eliminating 546 unfilled city jobs do not represent real savings, since the city was not paying anyone to do those jobs, anyway.

"That's just not real. It's a savings of not being there. It's voodoo math," said DiCiccio, whose district includes Ahwatukee Foothills.

The cuts bring the number of full-time city employees to 15,090 - 9.4 positions per thousand residents - making the employee count the smallest number per capita in 40 years, said Sina Matthes, a city spokeswoman. Matthes said cutting the positions means a savings of $14.7 million to the city budget.

"We will continue providing the outstanding customer service that has earned us a reputation as one of the best-run cities in the world, even as we do so with fewer people," according to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

But DiCiccio said the plan gives the impression that substantive cuts are being made when in fact they're not. Wiping unfilled positions off the books is an accounting trick, he said.

"It doesn't mean the employee count is shrinking," DiCiccio said.

Longtime Ahwatukee Foothills resident and City Hall watcher Greta Rogers said cutting the vacant positions is a positive move.

"All these vacant positions that you carry on your books, if they're vacant, eliminate them," she said.

DiCiccio said city officials need to address the high cost of labor. City employees, who average nearly $100,000 in total compensation, make more money than people in similar private sector jobs, he said.

"You can't keep constantly giving employees more and more and taking more and more from the public," DiCiccio said.

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