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Updated Dec 1, 2013 - 3:51 pm

Tucson mulls loan to pay for streetcar project

TUCSON, Ariz. — Officials in Tucson are examining whether to take out a
$13 million loan to bridge a funding gap in a project to build the city’s new
streetcar system.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the bulk of the
project’s $197 million in costs are covered by federal grants and the Regional
Transportation Administration.

The city’s share of costs was penciled in at $26 million, but officials had
contended the city might not have to pony up any money for construction because
of declining construction costs and potential grant money was available. The new
grants never materialized, and costs didn’t sink far enough for the city to
avoid paying.

Councilman Steve Kozachik was rankled by the possibility of taking out a loan.

“For the last two years, we’ve been told that the project is on time and in
budget. And I’ve been saying neither is true,” Kozachik said. “The cars are
late and now we’re told that we have a significant funding gap.”

Council members are scheduled to decide next week whether to go ahead with pay
raises that the council approved last spring for city employees.

With city expenses climbing and a list of over $1 billion in unmet needs, the
city might not have the capacity to add $8 million annually to its budget to
increase employee pay.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said he’s not too concerned about streetcar costs for
now.

“The city will face additional fiscal challenges in 2015, but if we can sell
an adequate number of streetcar passes, that revenue, along with the reserve
funds we have at the RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) for operation and
maintenance, should keep the financial impact of the streetcar to a minimum,”
Rothschild said.

Unions hope the council doesn’t renege on the raises.

Jason Winsky, government affairs director for Tucson Police Officers
Association, said the council promised it would make compensating employees a
priority and they should live up to that.

In the end, Winsky believes the council will allow the pay raises to take
effect Jan. 1.

___

Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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