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Tucson city leaders continue budget talks

Posted at 9:36 PM, Mar 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 14:01:46-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Tucson city manager gave the mayor and council an update on the city budget at a study session on Tuesday afternoon.
 
Through a hiring freeze, retirement incentives and other actions the city cut down the $42 million deficit in the general fund to $25.6 million. 
 
In an effort to balance the budget for the next fiscal year, which is required by state law, all city departments were asked to restructure and cut spending, said city manager Michael Ortega. 
 
Ortega presented a list of ideas to city leaders that would increase revenue and reduce spending by roughly $26 million in nearly 20 departments.
 
The city is still in the very early stages of budget discussions, Ortega said, and they will get into more detail in the next few weeks. It's hard to tell what the impact will be on the community, he says, but they are doing what they can to minimize those impacts.
 
Proposed ideas to increase revenue include increasing admission to Reid Park Zoo by $3, transit fare rate increases, and increasing the public utility tax from 4% to 5%.
 
Under the latest recommendation the city attorney's office would reduce a the number of already vacant prosecuting attorneys and support staff. 
 
City attorney Mike Rankin says that means they wouldn't prosecute as many civil cases, including certain animal code offenses like leash laws. Instead the focus would be on criminal cases like D.U.I.'s, domestic violence, etc.
 
"There's only so much time in the day, and I want them to focus on those cases that provide the greatest public benefit," Rankin said.
 
There are currently 29 budgeted attorney positions, Rankin said, and about 10 are vacant. Under the current proposals he says the department would actually be able to fill about five empty positions.
 
KGUN9 on your side has reported on the proposed changes to the Tucson Police Department and the Tucson Fire Department.
 
The budget will be discussed at a retreat with city staff on April 4th, Ortega said. Ortega will submit his recommended budget on April 19th, there will be public hearings and the final budget won't be adopted until June.
 
It will go into effect on July 1st, the beginning of the 2016 - 2017 fiscal year.