Tucson starts process to fill budget holes - Tucson News Now

Tucson police fire, just holding their own

The city of Tucson is facing a $15 million budget hole but it's a far cry from the $70 million and more it faced a few years ago.

Still, there's no extra money for much of anything new at either police and fire. The Tucson Parks and Recreation Dept. is actually shrinking a bit more in 2014 after five years of downsizing.

All the departments went before the Tucson city council with power point presentations about the FY 2014 budgets.

It was pretty much "hold your own."

"In the same as your household and mine, we just stretch it and make it last a little longer until we find a better time," says Tucson fire chief Jim Critchley.

But the department has equipment needs, fire trucks are wearing out and maintenance costs are soaring.

At some time, it will affect public safety.

"We're okay now but I can tell you we can't carry this much longer.," Critchley says.

Tucson's police chief, Roberto Villasenor, points out the department is down 115 personnel from just five years ago.

And he says "we have 100 cars with over 100,000 miles."

That's a lot of miles on a police cruiser which spends a great deal of time idling.

It's also added a great deal to the maintenance budget.

The Parks and recreation department is asking for about $1 mil less than it received last year.

"I think if we reduce much more we talk about further service reductions," says Fred Gray, the Parks and Rec director.

The hope is the department can persevere a bit longer until the economy gets better and the folks using the parks services don't notice too much.

"We've sort of maintained although we've had budget reductions," says Gray. "As long as we continue to do that, that's a positive."

One area of concern is the growth in pension contributions.

For fire it goes from about $9 million to about $17 million in two years.

Police goes from $15 to $27 million in the same time frame.

The city is legally obligated to pay it so trimming must be done elsewhere.

"We're just trying to maintain what we have," one fire official says. "We're not trying to grow.

Pay increases are not on the table this year even though there seems to be a proposal to give workers a 55 cent per hour increase.

"I don't think that's feasible," says city council member Steve Kozachik. "It would add another $5 million to the $15 million we're already facing."

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