Tucson Council approves budget and raises

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - City of Tucson has a budget for next year that includes raises for its employees.  Now, they're waiting to see if they get them.

Emergency dispatchers will get a one dollar-an-hour raise in July; however, the council will discuss in October whether the city can afford $11 million for raises for the rest of its employees.

And while some employees don't like the uncertainty of the raise, they also don't consider it fair.  City employees in departments such as water, transportation and parks and recreation said that their increases at 55-cents an hour are much lower than increases for police. Tucson Police officers hired before July 2011 will receive a 5-percent raise while others either hired after or who are senior staff will receive a 55 cent an hour raise.

The council unanimously approved the budget; however, councilmember Steve Kozachik opposed the salary increases.  He said that the city faces up to $40 million in extra expenses the years after next.  He said that an increase now could lead to furloughs or layoffs in the future.

"God bless our employees, we'd love to give them raises.  You go throughout this city, though; everybody in the private sector is saying the same thing: 'we haven't been able to afford raises for the last four, five, or six years,'" said Ward Six Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik.

"We're in a position now where we have six-year officers that are in essence training new officers that are coming out on the street and they're ultimately making almost the same amount of money," said Ofc. Bill Bonanno, president of Tucson Police Officers Association.

"Who's to say in October they come and tell us they don't have enough money to give us our fifty-five cents?  We don't know that for a fact.  They said they have to compress a lot of things.  You know what?  I compress the food on my kids' table," said James King, a city employee.

The council also approved a water rate increase that will cost the average Tucson Water user an additional one to three dollars a month.  The utility and the city cite better conservation as a cause of less demand and less revenue for Tucson Water, which must still operate.

The raises take effect next calendar year.

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