Time to make the…budget

On Monday night the lowest paid employees of the City of South Tucson, the City Council, were presented with their next big challenge, balancing the city budget. Finance Director Lourdes Aguirre presented a preliminary draft budget and led the council through the steps they’ll be taking in the coming months to address the potential $395,000 deficit the city faces in fiscal year 2020.

Councilman Oyegbola asks Finance Director Lourdes Aguirre a question at the council meeting on Monday, March 18, 2019.

For some of the council members, this will be their first time tackling the budget, but the mood remained positive throughout the meeting as no official action needed to be taken. New City Manager John Vidaurri will meet with city department heads this week to draft a proposed baseline budget and options to present to the Council at the next regular meeting on Monday, March 25. The Council must adopt a tentative budget by the beginning of June.

Ms. Aguirre conservatively estimated the end of fiscal year 2019, June 30, will result in a net surplus of $100,775. But with total expenditures expected to rise $335,016 over the next year, with, for instance, fire department expenses accounting for $126,449 of that variance, the council will be challenged with difficult decisions through the 2020 budgeting process.

Much of the expected surplus was the result of positions sitting empty throughout the government in 2018, including the once-vacant city manager position. The police force currently has three funded, but vacant, positions and the planning and zoning director position remains unfilled.

“It’s important to look at the revenue side of the budget,” new city manager, John Vidaurri, told the Council. Vidaurri said he’ll be looking for ways to generate new revenues without impacting existing businesses or residents.

Sales tax revenue leaders, retail and restaurants and bars, brought in $654,653 and $441,870 respectively. Utility taxes came in third with $199,820 in revenue generation for the city. Property taxes accounted for approximately one percent of total revenues bringing in only $55,000.

At the end of the study-session, Acting Mayor Paul Diaz asked to include an overview of the history of cutbacks to City employees in the materials provided for budget deliberations. Councilwoman Rita Rogers went on the record saying South Tucson needs an economic development director.                

Check back next Tuesday for an update on the budgeting process.