Tucson City budgets divides city employees

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The pay raise formula passed 6-1 by the Tucson City council is complicated.

On the one hand, it gives a 55 cent an hour raise to most city employees across the board.

But police and fire are treated differently.

Depending on years of service, their raises range from 55 cents to 2.5% to 5%.

But no matter how you look at it, raises for most public safety employees goes up to a much higher level.

"I'm concerned about creating two levels of employees," says Ward 1 Council member Steve Kozachik.

He was the lone dissenting vote on the council.

We asked several city employees their feelings about the disparity but no one would speak on the record.

In confidence, one told us "that's just the way it's always been."

Another said he understands because police and fire have more dangerous missions and should be compensated more.

He said it may also keep some workers from jumping to another jurisdiction for higher pay.

"We understand why they do it," he says. "No one said life was fair."

But the city is trying to be a bit more fair, even in a time of dwindling budgets.

That's a concern for Kozachik.

He says because of actions taken by the majority of the deficit next year could be nearing $40 million.

"That's even before we start talking," he says.

The Modern Streetcar which is slated to come on line this year, will add $4 million in maintenance and operation.

Police pension payout's next year because of the DROP program will cost $5 to $6 million more.

This years $13 million debt was pushed to next year.

Seventy-five police officers funded through a grant will now have to be paid by the city.

$11 million for the raises and he predicts workers will have to be laid off or furloughed.

It doesn't make much sense to give them a raise then furlough the workers he believes.

He says the costs a fixed costs so there's no way to get around them.

The council gave itself an out by saying if there's no way to pay for the raises, then they can be rescinded in the fall.

"It's a month before the election," he says. "Let's get real."

He also believes the city engenders bad will by promising the raises and then backing off,

He believes there will talk about closing a firehouse or laying off police but he believes that won't happen.

"Whose left on the chopping block" he  believes are the rest of employees."

"That's just not fair," he says.

There will be a public hearing on the budget next week, May 21, before the final budget is adopted.

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