How Coronavirus Could Affect Phoenix Spending On Police, Fire, Parks

Published: Friday, March 13, 2020 - 1:43pm
Updated: Friday, March 13, 2020 - 3:27pm
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Phoenix City Hall.

The coronavirus outbreak and economic uncertainty is creating challenges for local governments as they plan their budgets. 

Going into the next fiscal year that starts July 1, Phoenix has a general fund surplus of about $28 million. But rather than spend it all, City Manager Ed Zuercher recommends spending nearly $13 million on essential and previously approved items like additional positions for police and fire, a new Office of Accountability and Transparency to include civilian oversight of police, and more money to address homelessness. Zuercher recommends the remaining surplus, about $15 million, be set-aside and possibly spent, depending on economic conditions, after the fiscal year begins.

In a report to the city council, the city manager’s office wrote: “Moody's Financial has said that the risk of a global recession was rising as the spread of the coronavirus causes a simultaneous supply and demand shock throughout the world economy.”

Phoenix’s general fund for FY 2020-21 is projected to be $1.466 billion. Starting April 2, the trial budget will be presented at various community hearings through April 22. Using input from residents and council members, a proposed budget should be presented in early May. You can also provide input here.

Below are the spending items in the current trial budget the city manager proposes covering through the general fund surplus.

Proposed Essential

City Manager's Office - $2,496,000 The Trial Budget includes funding needed to establish a Community Review Board and an Office of Accountability & Transparency as approved by City Council on February 25, 2020.

Police - $2,898,000 The Trial Budget reflects the addition of 13 civilian positions needed to support the increasing demand for public records requests and the expansion of the body-worn camera program. These positions will help minimize processing times and backlogs. The Trial Budget also includes a set-aside to continue exploring options for the implementation of an Early Intervention System that will be used to identify and mitigate performance issues. Also included are six positions for the Professional Standards Bureau to provide increased oversight, transparency and assist with the implementation of the National Police Foundation recommendation to collect data on all incidents involving a "Pointed Gun at Person". 

Homelessness (Tier 1 - Attachment A) 

For many years, the city has invested resources into programs designed to fight chronic homelessness. Since 2013-14, city support of the CASS Homeless Shelter has increased from $741,000 per year to approximately $878,000 in 2020-21. The city also provides approximately $1.3 million in GF and grant funds to UMOM for emergency shelter services for single women and families. The city has also leveraged a number of public housing resources, such as affordable housing and vouchers for veterans, to provide permanent ongoing housing alternatives for the community. In response to increased demand for alternative solutions to homelessness and transient issues, the city launched Phoenix C.A.R.E.S. in November 2017. The program is a collaborative effort involving several city departments and contracted outreach teams to provide a comprehensive response to homelessness, including transitioning homeless to services and ensuring the remnants of encampments left behind on public and private lands are cleaned up. 

The Trial Budget proposes the following enhancements to the city's existing homelessness efforts: 

Housing - $275,000 The Trial Budget proposes adding funding to replace at-risk Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds used to support Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH combines affordable housing assistance with other supportive services to help chronically homeless or severely traumatized people. 

Human Services - $225,000 The Trial budget proposes to increase funding used to assist homeless veterans. The proposed budget also includes funding needed for the Phoenix police department to have access to county-wide up-to-date shelter availability information through the Homeless Management Information System. 

Neighborhood Services - $656,000 The Trial Budget includes funding needed to convert four Neighborhood Specialists and two Neighborhood Inspectors from CDBG funding. This conversion will allow the Neighborhood Specialists and Neighborhood Inspectors to work citywide and not be restricted to CDBG eligible areas. By converting these positions to General Funds, approximately $380,000 will be freed up to help address homelessness issues in neighborhoods. 

Public Transit - $80,000 The Trial Budget includes funding to provide cleanup of debris and/or litter associated with homeless individuals along the light rail corridor. 

Solid Waste - $354,000 The Trial Budget proposes adding funding for two positions to support the Solid Waste Customer Engagement Services division and the Phoenix C.A.R.E.S. program. These positions will manage and coordinate field operations for cleanups of areas impacted by transient activity. 

Street Transportation - $100,000 The Trial Budget includes funding for biohazard cleanup in the public right-of-way areas of focus are coordinated with the Phoenix C.A.R.E.S. program and will also include the neighborhoods surrounding the Human Services Campus and other public areas. 

Homelessness Set-Aside - $1,586,000 At the March 4, 2020 City Council Policy Session City Council and staff discussed options for developing a plan to address chronic homelessness within the city. In addition to the items listed above, the Trial Budget also includes a set-aside to assist with the formulation of a comprehensive homeless strategy. This set-aside increases GF spending on homelessness by $3 million. 

Responding To Growth

The Trial Budget proposes the following additions in response to the city's current and projected growth: 

Fire - $3,676,000 The Trial Budget proposes adding 18 positions for the Fire Regional Dispatch Center. The cost of these positions will be shared with the 26 jurisdictions that Phoenix Fire dispatches for through an intergovermental agreement. The Trial Budget also includes funding for a new full-time rescue (ambulance) company assigned to Fire Station 5 located at 18th Street and Cambridge Avenue. Also proposed is funding for an additional Medical Response Unit that will enhance service delivery in central and eastern part of the city. The Trial budget also includes five positions for the Energy System inspection program needed to oversee inspections of residential and commercial energy systems. 

Parks and Recreation - $253,000 The Trial Budget includes staff and supplies needed to prepare for the opening of the Cesar Chavez Community Center under construction and scheduled to open in the Fall of 2021. 

Street Transportation - $138,000 The Trial Budget includes additional funding for contractual services to maintain street landscaping along newly developed and renovated streetscapes and the Grand Canal Phase II. This includes maintenance for new landscaping along Broadway Road between 35th and 51st Avenue and the east side of 107th Avenue between Indian School Road and Camelback Road.

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