Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I wanted to let you know that we have been making the tough decisions to balance the City’s budget while working to increase our business incentives to attract more private sector wealth. We’re still not out of this economic crisis and our budget reflects that fact. Steps we have taken include:
• Reduced expenditures by almost $90 million;
• Reduced salaries by 22% with 1,000 city positions eliminated;
• Cut 25% from my office budget;
• Merged departments and eliminated costly administrative positions.

As in past years, I have worked to direct our General Fund investments to core services, as requested by city residents.
• Approximately 66%, or two-thirds, of our budget is invested in public safety, including police and fire.
• We aggressively pursued a federal grant of $13 million to hire 54 new police officers.
• More than 12% of our budget is invested in Parks and Recreation and Transportation, including Transit.
• The remaining 22% of our General Fund budget goes to all other departments, including Development Services.

Mayor and Council protected Development Services from deep cuts that would delay plan and permit approvals for business expansion and opposed fees that would undermine recovery. We listened to the concerns of renters and small business owners, and said no to a rental housing tax, an advertising tax and business license fee increases. For the first time in more than 10 years, we authorized federal Section 108 business loans, in partnership with the Downtown Tucson Partnership and the Tucson Industrial Development Authority, to help stimulate the economy. We are researching all the new state and federal grant opportunities to build economic partnerships.

We reinstated strategic financial support through a competitive process to the Microbusiness Advancement Center, Downtown Tucson Partnership, TREO, the Arts Council and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.  We increased fees but did not dismantle the KIDCO after-school program for 1300 kids, so that working families can keep working. I’m also very proud that we are keeping our recreation and senior centers open, along with 10 pools across the city.

I view our investment in transportation and transit choices as a form of economic development, as it helps our city’s workforce get to their jobs. Our General Fund investment to transit has increased due to $3 million in cuts from the State Legislature, higher fuel costs, refunding our liability reserve and contractual costs at Sun Tran. Unfortunately, every one cent increase in gas prices increases the city’s transit costs by $30,000, so we raised bus fares again this year. We have directed our transit task force to work with our Department of Transportation to create a five year plan for transit, including the integration of the Modern Streetcar.

We are working to minimize $9.5 million in debt restructuring by selling City land. We have two proposals moving forward right now that could bring in approximately $6 million, and we will be forwarding more recommendations in the next two months.
The final public hearing on the proposed budget is May 24 at 5:30 pm at Mayor and Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 255 W. Alameda. You can also testify at next week’s meeting, May 17, at 5:30 p.m. at the same place. Please join us and make your voice heard.

In Community,

Regina Romero