Posts Tagged ‘Sun Tran’

19th August
2009
written by Mike

The debate rages on about what the City of Tucson can and can not afford. The Tucson ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and SAHBA among other business groups have stepped up to push a mandatory police staffing initiative which will take our police officers per 1000 population from 1.9 to 2.4 (closer to a national average) and will establish minimum response times for fire and emergency services when we need them most. Those crazy business people somehow feel that safe streets, neighborhoods and businesses will actually make people want to live in our community. With an absence of leadership from our elected officials someone had to step up.

No sooner than the initiative hit the streets did the spin machine from city council and the county go into effect scaring the community by bemoaning the high cost to increase the police force and process the criminals.  What’s the cost of not doing it gang?

 

City Council members and city staffers have declared the initiative would cost the city $50 million more per year to pay for the 350 additional police officers and firefighters required, and have questioned where the money will come from. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has also indicated the additional officers will result in higher court and jail costs for the county.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Does the City of Tucson have the money to pay for:

* Public Safety First Initiative;

* Convention Center Hotel;

* Balance the budget

(the rating agencies recently lowered Tucson’s credit rating and cited a “structural budget deficit”)

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My contention is that there is plenty of money to pay for things; it is just a matter of priority and political will.  These are difficult times but we expect our political leaders to make those difficult decisions.  The 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the City of Tucson reveals several funds that are running large deficits.  Reducing or correcting these deficits frees up vital funds to help with other priorities.  (This information is a year old but many funds are operating about the same or worse.  2009 CAFR will be available in a few months; should be an interesting read.)

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Mass Transit Fund: $32.2 million deficit (page 20)

The Mayor &Council authorized an increase in fares recently.  It was decided to use the funds to enhance transit services rather than reduce the subsidy.

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Environmental Services: $6.1 million deficit (page 23)

Remember the ‘trash fee’.  This basic support function simply needs to charge properly so they break even.  Is this function ripe for outsourcing to local trash companies?

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Water Utility Fund:  $4.1 million deficit (page 23)

I believe basic utilities such as this need to break even each year.

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Convention Center Fund:  $7.3 million deficit (page 82)

Let’s just say that as a stand-alone entity, the TCC loses plenty of money.  Does this facility provide sufficient ancillary benefits from events held there?

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Team/Parkwise: $1.2 million deficit (page 82)

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Capital Improvements Fund:  $38.5 million negative cash flow (page 83)

This fund had a nice fund balance at beginning of year ($86 million) but $38 million was taken from it.  Could be that the City built stuff they did not have the money to pay for?  It is also possible some of these funds were shifted to help balance the budget (dip into reserves to balance the budget – the rating agencies notice this stuff).

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H.U.R.F. Fund:  $8.6 million transferred to “Other Funds” (page 83)

HURF Fund ran a $1.6 million deficit and then transferred $8.6 million to “Other Funds”.   Just wondering out loud where the money went?

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Development Fee Fund:  $5.5 million PROFIT (page 83)

We found a profit center!  This money comes from ‘Developer Fees’.

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Golf Course Fund:  $1.5 million deficit (page 91)

Should greens fees be raised?  City golf is one of the best deals in town.  Golfers could probably kick in a little more to help clear this deficit.

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Public Housing (AMP) Funds:  $3.8 million deficit (page 91)

What is the City’s role in public housing?  If the City simply matched -dollar-for-dollar what the Feds kick in, the deficit is cleared.  But we kick in much more.

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Fleet Services: $6.1 million deficit (page 94)

This basic support function simply needs to break even.  The motor pool charges various units for operating their vehicles.  They just have to charge properly for their services. Perhaps this function is ripe for outsourcing to local automotive shops?

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Self Insurance Fund: $5.7 million operating deficit -and- $17.6 negative fund balance (pg 93/94)

This issue came to light earlier in the year when the City considered dipping into this fund to help cure the budget deficit (just about the worst idea I have heard all year).  There is the potential that the City will get whacked with a large legal verdict and have to take money from the general fund to pay the settlement.  The rating agencies have this on their radar screen and this hurts the City’s credit rating.  The City needs to charge each department properly according the risk.  This function is screaming to be outsourced to private companies – the City should not be in the insurance business; they are not good at it.  Political temptation is simply too great: politicians tend to under-charge for risk and like to dip into this piggy bank.

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