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Phoenix Councilmembers Question 'Backwards' Budget Process

phoenix council budget vote
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
By a 6-3 vote, the Phoenix City Council approved a budget that assumes a higher property tax yet to be voted on.

The Phoenix City Council approved more than $1 billion in spending Tuesday night. Now, they’re on the clock to come up with cash to cover it all.

By a 6-3 vote, the council approved a budget that restores employee pay and benefit concessions, adds body cameras for all patrol offices over the next three to five years and creates a new program for veteran entrepreneurs. It also includes new spending on youth and art programs and the hiring of 145 police officers and 36 firefighters.

The problem for some council members who voted "no," including Jim Waring, is that the budget is based on a property tax hike they have not yet voted on. 

“If you’re voting for this budget today, you’re really sanctioning the tax increase," Waring said. "Otherwise, we might as well just vote for $37 million in cuts right now.”  

The city manager's budget which the council voted on assumes that $37 million will come from  higher property taxes. According to City Manager Ed Zuercher, the average resident would pay an extra $51 a year.

But, after hearing public comment, Councilmember Laura Pastor and Vice Mayor Kate Gallego — who both voted in favor of the budget — asked staff to look into other ways to come up with the money.

"To me, this process is backwards," Gallego said. "We're doing revenues at the very end and expenditures first and I think that's a mistake. We should really talk about how much money we have and where it's coming from. I do have concerns about a property tax."

On July 1, the council must either approve the property tax increase, find other revenue or start cutting the budget they just passed. 

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