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Phoenix Estimates One-Time Budget Surplus up To $55 Million

phoenix city hall
Christina Estes/KJZZ
file | staff |
Phoenix City Hall.

After years of belt tightening, the city of Phoenix could see a one-time surplus up to $55 million for the next fiscal year. A firm number is expected next month, but City Council members are already being pressured on how to spend the money.

The answer is pretty obvious to some people. After accepting compensation concessions over the past few years, some representatives for employee unions say it’s time to show workers some appreciation. During Tuesday’s policy session, Jennifer Wozniak told the council that some of the groundskeepers, gardeners and landscapers in her union can make as little as $12.96 an hour.

“I don’t know anyone as a family of four that can live on $12.96 an hour," she said. "I hope that you consider restoration so that the people I represent are no longer eligible for foods stamps.” 

Wil Buividas, the chief contract negotiator for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Assocation, the union representing police officers, said Phoenix is no longer the employer of choice.

“I had a membership meeting today," he told council members. "And you guys should have heard what I heard from my members. All I hear them talking about is I can’t wait to get my 20 years on so I can get out of this hellhole. Phoenix is a crappy place to work.” 

While some council members expressed gratitude to employees, they must also consider what Budget Director Jeff Barton called the elephant in the room — employee pensions.

“This is the one that’s placing most of the pressure upon our general fund," he said.

According to the city's five-year budget forecast, pension costs for civilian employees are estimated to grow by 50 percent while costs for police and fire are expected to increase 75 percent. 

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.