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By: Steve Shadley on 03/18/2013
Tucson may follow in the steps of Phoenix voters who approved city pension reforms last week. Tucson’s vice-mayor says the city is facing a $15 million budget gap caused by escalating retirement benefits.
Tucson councilwoman Regina Romero said the city’s pension expenses have increased by more than 250 percent over the past decade. She said that’s because the city must meet state requirements for pension payouts to police officers and firefighters. But, Romero also blamed the problem on retiring employees who sell unused vacation time back to the city to artificially inflate their salaries and pensions.
She said the city council must act to stop it from happening in the future.
“That’s a practice that is costing the City of Tucson $3.4 million a year, I believe. And, I think that its important for the city of Tucson to find a way to be able to have a balanced approach to compensate with our base salaries to employees," Romero said.
Romero said Tucson has been forced to leave more than 1,000 city positions unfilled to cope with the financial crisis. Tucson City Council must come up with a way to close the gap before the next budget starts in July.