Saturday, June 7, 2014

We had a better way to balance Phoenix's budget

Phoenix Mayor and some on council passed a budget on a 5-4 vote. This was the closest budget vote in City history. The budget Mayor Stanton and some council supported increased their own personal office budgets, but cut police pay. Additionally, their budget creates a new tax on water and increases fees on seniors, but refuses to address the police shortage, structural budget deficit, and lacks strategic planning.
Please see the column below that appeared in Arizona Republic twice this week where Vice Mayor Jim Waring and I presented our budget plan. Our plan cut nonstrategic functions such as public relations (PR),  lobbying, association dues, travel and dining. 
Please see the entire column below. 
By Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring
June 3, 2014 Arizona Republic
Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring: Don't like higher taxes and fees? We could have avoided them.

Phoenix's $38 million budget deficit, increases in taxes and fees to pay for non-essential items and the skyrocketing costs of pensions are all critical issues.

The budget approved by the Phoenix City Council on a 5-4 vote (Councilmen Bill Gates and Michael Nowakowski joined us in opposing this budget) included new taxes on water, fees on seniors, new fees at our parks and did not address the city's structural budget deficit.

Revenue in Phoenix was the second highest in its history, but the city still faced a significant budget shortfall. We can do better.

We have long advocated a return to core strategic functions as opposed to the recent emphasis on new taxes to prevent cuts to non-vital functions. Mismanagement by the mayor and council, and misplaced priorities created the budget deficit this year.

We had warned revenue projections were much too high (city staff projected 7.5 percent growth. Most other cities were between 0 and 5 percent growth).

We voted against previous budgets because they did not focus enough on public safety, and spent too much on non-strategic items. Any budget that spends about $6 million on public relations, memberships, lobbying, travel and hundreds of thousands on a study about what's in your garbage can is not "cut to the bone," as some claim.

We outlined a plan to reduce spending in these areas and others, sell off unused and vacant properties owned by Phoenix and cut some vacant positions. This simple plan could have eliminated the need for the tax and fee increases passed by the council.

Mayor Greg Stanton and the others on the council voted to cut $4.6 million in police officer compensation. We again voted no. Phoenix spends more from all-funds on public relations ($4.9 million) than that.

With police-involved shootings rampant in our city, the council should recognize that life and death issues have to be more of a priority than paying dues to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
We recognize and embrace that council members can have differing views. Policy differences that have an important impact on each of your families deserve the level of scrutiny (and more) that was seen this year.

We have a great city, a city we call home. We can make things better. All we need is the leadership and will to focus our energy on those items that improve our quality of life by protecting our families and creating jobs.

It's not that complicated.

Sal DiCiccio represents north-central and southeast Phoenix on the City Council. Jim Waring represents northeast Phoenix.
My best to you and your family!

Sal DiCiccio 

Phoenix City Councilman, District 6