Tucson's budget pain begins - Tucson News Now

Tucson's budget pain begins

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

For two years we've heard the 2015 budget cycle was going to be bad.

It's living up to the hype.

Tucson's financial people laid a budget bombshell on the city council announcing that by best estimates, the deficit would be $33.2 million for 2015.

Even though it's not the biggest deficit ever, it may hurt more because there are very few places left to cut.

"I think this one will be the most difficult," says Tucson Chief Financial Officer Kelly Gottschalk. "There are not a lot of places to cut longer."

For the past six years the city has laid off employees, put off preventative maintenance, juggled the books, squeezed the departments and cut back services.

There's little left.

Several things came together to make this year especially bad.

More than 100 top police and fire officials will be retiring in the next year and a half and the city, because of state law, must pick up a substantial tab for that.

Tucson is one of the few cities in the country which operates its own transit system. It has a $41 million dollar subsidy and increases next year because of the streetcar coming on line.

Several grants and expiring and the city must pick up the tab.

Tucson was one of the few cities in the country to get a multi million dollar COPS grant from the federal government which it used to hire 75 new officers.

That grant expires this year and the city will be required to pay for 30 of those offices.

Price tag $2.2 million.

An grant to provide health coverage for early retirees expires this year costing another $1 million.

It adds up.

Where the city might cut is still being worked on but every corner will likely feel some pain.

A smaller workforce.

"That might be a solution," says Gottschalk. "It will be a lot of employees."

Tucson has 174 programs from KIDCO to the Zoo.

"We'll look at all of them very closely," she says.

Services from licenses to inspections to keeping the roads clean will be scrutinized.

Some are upset the city recently gave workers a pay raise only to face a budget deficit.

How many of those employees will not have long to enjoy that raise will be known in the next few weeks.  

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