Karin's Note: Friday, August 23, 2013

-Ward 3 Events
-Upcoming Area Neighborhood and Coalition Meeting(s)
-Citywide Events
-Did You Know?

Dear Tucsonans, 

Our Budget and Economic Growth

While the recovery continues to take hold across our community we face the challenge of shaping our City budget and our future services responsibly. For the past few years now we’ve experienced modest growth in our general funds base of revenues, a welcome trend after several years of revenue declines. Since 2011 the annual rate of general fund revenue growth has been between 4% and 5%. That’s currently around $21 million of added revenue per year projected for our $466 million general fund budget.

In addition to the General Fund budget, many of our services are treated as separate enterprises that must cover all expenses through departmental revenues collected. Our primary enterprises include Tucson Water, Environmental Services, ParkWise (a division of the Transportation Department) and Golf (a division of Parks and Recreation). The largest enterprises, Water and Environmental Services, have combined operating budgets of roughly $200 million; operating revenues have grown roughly 4% ($8 million) per year over the past two years. 

A number of other large departments, such as Housing and Community Development and Transportation operate with significant federal/state/regional funding allocations and internally-generated funds (such as rental income and transit fares) in addition to general fund allocations.

This broad overview must be kept in mind as we sort through budget management strategies for the future. Too often the context provided for our challenges is solely our General Fund. Staff has offered a few preliminary projections for growing costs in FY2015. The identified increase in expenditures could be as much as $40 million. If that is true and our revenue growth holds steady but does not improve, costs could exceed revenues next year by $11 million ($40 million minus approximately $29 million in combined General Fund and TW/ES Enterprise Fund revenue growth FY2015 over FY2014).
It’s no coincidence that the hole in our budget roughly equates to the transportation funds lost annually from the state (gas tax money for street repairs, and lottery money for transit). In fact, the City has lost over $37 million over the past few years that used to come from the state, and $13 million of the $40 million projected “hole” next year relates to gas tax/transportation costs.

Moving forward I’ll be advocating three strategies for helping to balance the local budget: 1) economic growth 2) restoration of state gas tax/lottery funding and 3) reducing expenses through inter-governmental partnerships. Already our work on economic growth has led to a reduction in unemployment (down from the 10% peak to 7% now). The growth has also helped our revenue base recover and grow as noted above. We also need to work together to urge the state to restore gas tax and lottery revenue sharing with local jurisdictions. Just this morning the state reported $200 million of additional cash on hand at the end of the last fiscal year; clearly a portion of that has amassed at the expense of local street and transit services. And third, I’ve been pleased at the success of recent partnerships I’ve helped negotiate with local school districts, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe (and San Ignacio Council in Old Pascua), and Pima County to reduce costs within our Parks and Recreation Department which have also assured better services for our community. We can do much more across our City budget to deliver quality service through collaboration.

The entire Mayor/Council also fully recognizes long-term challenges embedded in our budget. We’ve taken some important initial steps to shore up the local pension system and must approach infrastructure development looking not only at the costs to build, but also the costs of financing, maintaining and operating anything we do build. Our work to encourage infill ties to that goal, because it leverages use of existing infrastructure and helps us repair, replace and upgrade instead of overextending our capital by adding more and more every year.

Emerging from the economic recession means we have an unprecedented opportunity to start fresh. The years of cutting and trimming have been difficult; we have the chance to rebuild in a more responsible and sustainable manner, bringing new strength to our local economy and better opportunities for all who live here. I welcome that challenge and look forward to meeting it with you.

Every Dollar Counts

This week we heard from a Ward 3 business owner about a new practice within Tucson Water for collecting account deposits for delinquent commercial accounts. Basically the Charter does allow the Director to collect deposits, however I believe how that is handled should fall under the Financial Policies and Procedures adopted by Mayor/Council. The business owner calling was taken by surprise by a new $600.00 ‘deposit’ charge on her bill; her business has admittedly had trouble paying bills on time but never to the point of a water shutoff. Yet Tucson Water tacked on this charge and has given her two months to pay it. I’ve got lots of questions, as I’m sure you do. For example, what constitutes grounds under this new practice for TW to initiate the deposit collection, and are their other options (late payments)? Will it only be applied to commercial accounts or will residential customers start seeing this also? How will the deposit amount be calculated? Will TW offer (like some other utilities do) to waive the deposit if you shift to payment by automatic debit from your bank/credit union account?

We have raised these questions and more with the Water Department and the City Manager, and I will place it on a Mayor/Council agenda soon. The bottom line for me is that our customers deserve fair notice of anything like this that’s going to hit their (often empty) pockets. Customers also ought to have the chance to sort through the right balance and all options with their Mayor/Council before feeling an added pinch on top of years of outright economic blows. I’ll keep you posted as we work to resolve this, and appreciate calls from constituent residents and businesses so I can best represent your interests and concerns.

I have also heard a great deal of concern over potential increases in fares charged for Sun Van, the door-to-door transit service for disabled people. The proposal comes as we continue to grapple with the impact of state transit funding cuts (noted above). No one disagrees that we offer a great service or that we recover less than 5% of the cost of this specialized service from fares. But many express serious concern about the impact a fare increase would have on some of the most vulnerable members of our community. A public hearing on this question will be held at our September 10 Mayor and Council meeting, and I’ll be listening closely to all input as we seek to better balance our transit budget.

Thanks as always for staying in touch.


Ward 3 Events:

-Wednesday, August 28th from 5:30 to 8:00 PM at TPD West, 1310 W. Miracle Mile. Council Member Uhlich invites you to "Transportation 101: How Transportation Planning and Funding Works in our Community.”  How many of your tax dollars go to support transportation, and how much of that comes back to our region?  How do Tucson, Pima County, and PAG plan for future roadway improvements, bike boulevards, greenways, our shared mass transit system, or maintenance of our current transportation assets? Get answers to these questions and more. Key City and PAG/RTA leaders will be on hand to answer your questions and hear your thoughts. Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to David Higuera at 791-4711 or David.Higuera@tucsonaz.gov

-Neighborhood Cleanup in Flowing Wells/Miracle Mile – Saturday, September 7 from 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. Meet at Jacob’s Park Ramada #1, 3301 N. Fairview. Bring tools, i.e. hoes, rakes, brooms, shovels (Water!) and wear working clothes and gloves. Jacobs Park will be the spot for snacks, lunch and gathering to get tools. Event is anchored by a large group of community volunteers. Contact: Mike Birrer at 461-4741 or mbir@juno.com

 4th Annual Ward 3 Shred-It Event - Saturday, September 21 from 8:30 a.m. to Noon. This year’s event will be held at Mansfield Park, 2000 N. 4th Avenue. First box is free, and subsequent boxes are $5 each and/or donate to our non-profit partners, Lend A Hand and Boys and Girls Club of Tucson. More information: Ward 3 Council Office, 791-4711.


Upcoming Neighborhood and Coalition Meeting(s):

-Keeling NA – Monday, August 26 at 7:00 p.m. Cornerstone Fellowship, 2902 N. Geronimo
-Jefferson Park NA – Wednesday, August 28 at 6:00 p.m. Ward 3 Council Office, 1510 E. Grant


Citywide Events:

-Tucson Modern Streetcar Design Charrett Final Meeting – The City of Tucson invites all property owners, residents, businesses, neighborhood representatives, developers and U of A stakeholders to participate in a series of follow-up meetings related to the Tucson Modern Streetcar Land Use Design Charrett that were held in January. The purpose of these meetings is to provide information regarding proposed strategies being developed to help the community achieve the vision for the Modern Streetcar Focus Area.
The meeting schedule is as follows:
Meeting 4: Western Terminus -- Mercado District and Menlo Park
Monday, August 26th 6:00 PM
Location: Public Works Building, 201 N. Stone Avenue, Basement Conf. Rm. C

-Discussion on the Affordable Care Act and Small Businesses–
Wednesday, August 28 at 7:30 a.m. DoubleTree Hotel at Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way. The Pima County Workforce Investment Board presents this free discussion starting with a complimentary breakfast at 7:30 a.m. followed by a panel discussion from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. including officials from Pima County Public Health, and members of the Legal, Financial and Insurance professions. Under the Affordable Care Act, small businesses will be able to buy health insurance for their employees through a government health insurance exchange or marketplace beginning October 1. The panel will be hosted by Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons. Space is limited. Please RSVP by Friday, August 23 to marketing@meritushealthpartners.com

-Labor Day Picnic- Tuesday, September 2, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Red Park Band Shell (Country Club North of 22nd Street. The picnic is sponsored by Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) and is open to the public. Free food, drinks, games and Union Olympics! More info: 388-4139.


-Did you know…?

…that Congressman Raul Grijalva is hosting an “Education Town Hall” on Tuesday, August 27? This discussion on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind takes place from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Loft Cinema, 3233 East Speedway. Find out what this means for our Arizona students! More info: 622-6788

…that HHW Collection is coming to your Neighborhood?  Last month, the Tucson/Pima County Household Hazardous Waste Program (HHW) made changes to provide residents with easier access to its services. HHW consists of waste that can harm people, animals, and contaminate groundwater if not properly disposed, such as car batteries, solvents, paint, cleaners, antifreeze, and other household products.  With the changes to the collection events, Second Saturday Outreach Collection events are now held in a different neighborhood each month. The previous collection site on Irvington is now closed.  First Saturday collections will be held monthly at the Eastside Service Center, 7575 E. Speedway Blvd., from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.  Home Pickup Program is also available through HHW.  Residents within Tucson City Limits who cannot reach one of our HHW Collection Sites may schedule a $25 home pickup. To schedule a pickup date or for more information, call ES customer service at (520) 791-3171.  For further inquiries, call customer service or visit www.tucsonaz.gov/es/household-hazardous-waste


that Basic CERT Training is back!  The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) educates citizens about disaster preparedness and basic disaster response skills. This training can prepare you to assist your family, neighbors and workplace when professional responders are not immediately available. The course includes 24 hours of instruction and practical exercises dealing with disaster preparation, fire suppression, medical operations, terrorism, search & rescue, command organization and disaster psychology.  The schedule for this training is:  Tuesday and Thursday evenings  (Sept. 24, Sept. 26, Oct. 1, and Oct. 3 from 5:30 to 9:30 pm)  followed by an all-day session Saturday, Oct. 5, 8 am to 5 pm.  Classes will be held at the UA Medical Research Building at Speedway & Campbell, where there is plenty of free parking.  There is no fee for the course, but donations are appreciated to help offset funding cuts.  To register, email your name, address and phone to TucsonCERT@cox.net.  For more information, call Stephen Schuldenfrei at 520-344-7769.