TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It was rare sight Monday night as the Tucson mayor, city council, and heads of all major city departments gathered at Fire Central to discuss ways to balance the budget.
City Council went through a long list of proposed budget items in each department put forth by City Manager, Michael Ortega. Currently, Tucson has a $25 million dollar budget deficit they are trying to balance for the next fiscal year.
At Monday's meeting, mayor and council voted on proposals line-by-line from each department to decide between three options: 1) keep it on the table for the city manager's final budget recommendation 2) ask for further discussion 3) take it off the table as something that cannot be cut.
After discussion, council approved the proposals for cuts to the Tucson Police Department which included $14 million. They were more hesitant towards cuts to the fire department citing concerns as to whether or not they could continue providing equal service. They agreed to keep overtime reductions on the table, but asked for further discussion on a handful of demotions and elimination of a rescue truck.
Mayor and council were most critical of proposals in the Parks and Recreation department. They voted to take two items completely of the table.
One such proposal was to close all pools during the winter months in order to save on labor and supplies. It would have resulted in more than $200,000 in cost reductions. Mayor and council asked the parks department to come up with ways of increasing revenue to help fund pools year-round.
The second item they took completely off the table was to reduce KIDCO during the school year which could reduce costs by more than $300,000. KIDCO is an after school program for kids.
Fred Gray, the parks director, says their department budgets for 1,300 kids to be in the KIDCO program. During the summer they are generally at full capacity, but during the school year they enroll about 900 kids. Despite that, mayor and council found the program too valuable to cut from the next year's budget.
There was also significant discussion about reducing costs at the Tucson Zoo. Discussion on how to increase revenue or reduce cost will resume later.
At the meeting, they went through cost reduction ideas and revenue possibilities proposed from all departments. The city manager will present his final budget recommendation on April 19.