The city of Phoenix is reaching out to residents over the next few months to get input on the city manager’s trial budget, which does not call for an early removal of the city’s food sales tax.
City Manager David Cavazos presented the trial budget to the City Council on Tuesday. City staff will host public budget hearings across the city throughout March and April. Council members will vote on a revised budget on May 7.
The trial budget is balanced, according to Cavazos. It contains no cuts in services or increase in any fees or taxes. The city does plan to restore some critical services. Phoenix will add fire paramedics and firefighters; increase police patrol; convert public safety radios; expand the 24/7 capabilities of city libraries with more e-books and online services; continue college depot; restore three after-school sites; provide funding for historic preservation; provide funding for grants and support for the arts; improve senior centers; and enhance partnerships with local nonprofits that provide help for abused children, domestic violence victims and homeless shelters.
City staff is estimating a 5 percent growth in the general fund revenue. The budget does not restore concessions taken from employee pay.
The trial budget does include information about repealing the food tax. If the food tax were repealed, staff said it would cause the city to have to remove critical service restorations that have been added in 2011, 2012 and the ones proposed for 2013. The repeal would also force the city to further cut the general fund, reduce transit services, delay balancing of public safety funds by two years, and reduce park services.
City Councilman Sal DiCiccio of Ahwatukee has argued to repeal the food tax.
“The food tax is one of the top things I hear when I go out and talk to the public,” he said. “It’s not about the tax itself but about the way it was done. When this food tax goes away the public will continue to have a bad taste in their mouth, especially with the way it was created. We’ve got to find a reasonable approach, multiple alternatives, not just one way to get away from it. It could be done multiple ways. Present those to the council… present ways to wean us off the food tax. My preference will be and always has been to just get rid of it.”
Mayor Greg Stanton has said he would not support getting rid of the food tax at this time.
There will be 20 public hearings to discuss the budget with city staff, including an online hearing with the mayor for residents unable to attend one in person. There will be a budget hearing at Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St., on Thursday, April 4. There will be a briefing on the emergency sales tax on food beginning at 5 p.m. and the community budget hearing will begin at 6 p.m.
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