Phoenix budget would prevent steep service cuts
Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher.(Photo11: Nick Oza/The Republic)
Story HighlightsZuercher plan would require no cuts in services to residentsAll city unions would have to accept a pay and benefit cutA new tax would increase water bills by $1.50City Council members will vote on the budget May 20A final city budget plan released Thursday by Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher would spare the senior centers, pools and public programs that residents mobilized to save amid a fiscal crisis, instead balancing the budget through employee pay cuts and a tax increase.
The city faces a $37.7 million budget hole the upcoming fiscal year, and Zuercher had warned the city might need to scale back community centers, fire prevention inspections and other expenses to erase its red ink.
Zuercher’s new budget plan avoids those cuts if all of the city’s employee unions accept a 1.6 percent across the board pay and benefit cut, saving $16.5 million. Tax and fee increases would bring in an additional $11 million, including a new $1.50 monthly tax based on water meter size.
But the plan faces fierce opposition from some City Council members and two employee unions the police officers and another representing skilled and technical workers. Hundreds of union members filled a city hearing Wednesday night to rail against the proposed cuts and demand pay raises.
Zuercher said the proposed compensation cuts, combined with efficiency savings and other financial maneuvers, are enough to balance the city’s $1.15 billion general fund. Phoenix must fix its deficit before the new budget year starts on July 1.
“My basic message on the budget this year is that shared sacrifice saves city services,” Zuercher said, responding to demands for additional employee pay raises. “If everyone does something, no one has to do everything. That is the highest priority here: preserving services.”
Council members and Mayor Greg Stanton have final say over the budget. They will debate its merits and make changes over the next three weeks.
Thousands of residents filled hearings across the city last month to oppose service cuts Zuercher outlined in his draft budget. Many complained the city was attempting to erase its deficit at the expense of the most vulnerable, including low income children who use public pools and older residents who rely on the meals and support they get at senior centers.
Maryvale resident Al DePascal, who spoke out at the budget hearings, was relieved when he heard Zuercher’s plan would not close recreation centers and eliminate parks staff in his neighborhood.
DePascal mentors children through an after school program and fretted that the potential cuts would leave m omega watches any without a haven.
“Where would they go?” DePascal asked. “That was what kept me out of a gang. It’s a trickle effect. They turn to vandalism, graffiti, (or) they start stealing.”
However, many Phoenix employees contend Zuercher’s budget will harm the city by punishing its employees who have been strained by compensation cuts and hiring f omega watches reezes dating back to the Great Recession.
Three of the city’s five unions with collective bargaining rights have accepted two year contracts that include pay and benefit cuts, though some are pending ratification of members.
The police officers union and the union representing skilled workers, such as mechanics or electricians, have refused to accept the same deal, demanding pay and benefit restorations and across the board raises.
It’s unclear where several council members stand on the issue.
If the unions and Zuercher can’t resolve the unprecedented impasse, city leaders could be forced to impose new contracts at their meeting next Wednesday.
Will Buividas, chief negotiator for the 2,4 omega watches 00 officers represented by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, argues they should not take additional cuts an omega watches d receive a 3.6 percent raise in the second year of the new contract, as an independent fact finder suggested. He said police should be treated differently due, in part, to the dangerous nature of the job.
“We can talk about shared sacrifices all we want,” Buividas said. “But nobody in the city, except for my guys, runs to gun fights. Protect those who protect you.”
Zuercher said the city has a long standing practice of treating all employee groups the same during negotiations.
Furthermore, the council already adopted a labor contract for another union that includes a “me too” clause, stating its members must receive the same raises or cuts as other unions. City leaders would likely have to impose a new contract to invalidate that.