Despite Multimillion-Dollar Deficit, Phoenix City Council OKs New Spending

Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2020 - 7:57am
Updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2020 - 7:59am
Alexandra Olgin/KJZZ
Phoenix City Hall in downtown Phoenix.

Despite facing a deficit of at least $26 million, Phoenix City Council members approved $1 million in new spending during Monday’s meeting.

Some of the money — $400,000 — will create the Office of Accountability and Transparency, an office the council narrowly approved earlier this year. 

Councilwoman Debra Stark, who originally voted against the Office of Accountability and Transparency, suggested the spending be postponed.

“I think it’s essential we take care of the current employees we have before we start a new program,” she said. “I just worry about the existing economy and what it might due to our existing staff.”

Councilmember Carlos Garcia who championed the Office of Accountability and Transparency, which includes civilian oversight of police, rejected Stark’s suggestion.

“I want to remind you all of the stress that exists,” he said. “I know it’s harder to see now but it’s there and if we’re going to come out of this crisis in a better place I suggest that we continue what we heard from the public that it’s needed and what we already voted on.

As part of the city manager’s revised trial budget, the council unanimously approved spending $600,000 to add eight employees to the Phoenix Fire Regional Dispatch Center to handle an increase in calls.

The revised trial budget also includes $27 million in reductions and savings, including:

  • $13 million saved by a hiring freeze.
  • $6.8 million from surplus land sales transferred into the general fund.
  • $4 million eliminated from plan to increase the contingency (rainy day) fund.
  • $2.2 million reduction in non-sworn vehicle replacements.
  • $1 million planned transfer into pension stabilization fund eliminated.

On May 5, the city manager will present a formal budget to the council and on May 19 the council will vote to begin the legal budget adoption process so the budget can take effect on July 1. Just a month ago, the city had a surplus of $28 million.

Due to the pandemic, sales tax and other city revenue has fallen drastically and due to restrictions on public gatherings, community budget hearings originally scheduled for April 2 through April 22 were cancelled.

Phoenix spokesperson Matthew Heil told KJZZ the revised trial budget contains no reductions to services or programs, and "residents can continue to provide comments online and via phone (residents can e-mail [email protected], or call 602-262-4800) throughout the budget process. We will be taking a list of potential reductions forward to the City Council and the community later in June, for more extensive public input."