2014 won't be 'easy one,' says Tucson mayor - Tucson News Now

2014 won't be 'easy one,' says Tucson mayor

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson is facing budget problems in 2014 and how they might affect city services is uncertain.

"It is not going to be easy from a city services point of view," Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said. "Our commitment to city residents is we will keep the services where they are."

Even that may prove daunting because the city is facing increased pension costs estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

There's also first time streetcar maintenance expenditures which could exceed $4 million.

It's estimated by some, the city may start the budget year with a $15 million deficit, but that's sheer speculation.

The mayor said he expects the growth rate to remain about the same as 3 to 4 percent "which again is good but it's not quite what we need to meet expenses."

The pension costs are controlled by the state but must be paid by the city.

Several high level police and fire officials will retire this year but will take with them big payouts as a result of the state's retirement system.

The pension system is in fine shape according to the mayor.

"If we get past 2015 and get some of those one time expenses behind us, I can see good things going forward," he said.

One reason for the optimism, is the resurgence of downtown.

Tucson is the last city in the West to see a boom downtown but it appears to be moving forward quickly and to be sustainable.

There's already been nearly a billion dollars in public and private investment downtown and 2014 is looking at another $100 to $115 million.

"I've talked to people around the country with capital" he said. "The get up on A-Mountain and say, mayor, there's not a place in the United States where there's 200 acres sitting and waiting to go this close to a downtown area."

The only question is whether they will put their money where their mouth is and invest some of that capital downtown.

"That's going to happen," the mayor said.

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