In just two years the city has gone from a $277 million budget shortfall in 2009-10 to a balanced budget with a possible $5.3 million in expanded services in the city’s trial budget for 2012-13, but Ahwatukee Foothills residents still had some concerns to voice about city employee costs and the food tax at a budget hearing Monday at Pecos Community Center.

The city presented a two-year budget at the public meeting Monday evening. The new zero-based budget is meant to be the most transparent yet. It can be viewed online at phoenix.gov/budget, and the city is hosting a total of 17 public meetings across the city for residents to voice concerns.

The budget contains plans to expand public safety; graffiti busters; arts and culture grants; swimming pool hours and youth sports; economic development and education; library hours; social service delivery; innovation and technology; infrastructure to expand the western end of bus service on Route 50; and financial excellence and transparency.

Some residents took issue with the fact that city employees were scheduled to receive 1.6 percent restitution for some of the pay cuts they took in previous years, if certain triggers were met, while tax payers will continue to pay a food tax. The food tax is scheduled to sunset on March 31, 2015, but the council could review and remove the tax before then or continue it.

Others defended the budget. This is the first time in years city services have been expanded and staffing is at a 40-year low per capita. The city’s Innovation and Efficiency Task Force has identified $40 million in savings since January 2010.

The city will have another meeting in District 6 on Monday, April 16 at the Madison School District Office, 5601 N. 16th St., beginning at 6 p.m. There will also be an online meeting with Mayor Greg Stanton on Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. through Facebook.com/cityofphoenix, Twitter by using #PhoenixBudget and email at contactus@phoenix.gov.

Questions and comments can also be sent to budget.research@phoenix.gov or by calling (602) 262-4800. After gathering feedback the proposed budget will be provided to the City Council on May 1. The approved budget will take effect July 1, 2012.

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

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