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Phoenix councilman says tax hike likely

Seniors at Washington Activity Center are concerned about proposed budget cuts. (Christina Estes/KTAR Photo)

PHOENIX -- Some tough talk will take place Tuesday afternoon when Phoenix council members discuss the city manager's budget proposal.

Among other things, it calls for an extra tax up to $1.50 per month on utility bills, increased fees at recreation centers and cuts to senior and community centers.

"I'm not advocating it," said Councilman Jim Waring who represents District 2. "I'm going to vote against it, but I do believe there will be a tax increase."

Waring, who voted against the recent $56,000 salary increase for new City Manager Ed Zuercher, said the city's nearly $38 million budget shortfall is the city council's fault.

"We actually have more revenue than we had a year ago. The problem is the revenue projections were so grossly overstated -- and I warned about those for the last two years," Waring explained. "I thought we were claiming way too much revenue in the future, which is now come to pass, and basically that is the problem -- that is the shortfall."

Talk of the budget could be heard over card games at the Washington Activity Center near 23rd Avenue and Glendale. Phoenix resident John Scott said he would be willing to pay more for his membership card, which is currently $10 a year, but he also thinks city leaders could find other ways to save money, like turning up thermostats.

"We always have to complain about the air conditioning being too cold at Devonshire (Center)," Scott said. "That costs money."

Fellow card player Anne Perry said she would support an extension of the food tax if "it would help keep the centers open." The tax, which the council approved after declaring a fiscal "emergency," was reduced from two to 1 percent on January 1, 2014, and is set to expire in April 2015.

KTAR reviewed hundreds of comments gathered at public hearings and through emails submitted to city leaders. The majority of people spoke in favor of keeping community centers open and several voiced support for raising fees and taxes.

Waring thinks the proposal to close community centers was used "as a sort of scare tactic" and doesn't think they will close, but he does think hours could be cut and both fees and taxes raised. Find out how to give your input to city leaders here.

On Tuesday, council members will review and discuss the city manager's trial budget, which includes:

Adding a monthly tax up to $1.50 on utility bills;

Raising city recreation passes from $10 to $20 for adults and $5 to $10 for kids;

Charging lighting fees for athletic field use;

Eliminating supervision at the Rose Mofford and Encanto Sports Complexes, which could lead to vandalism and graffiti;

Reducing neighborhood services employees who would monitor code violations and investigate graffiti complaints;

Eliminating civilian positions in central booking and assign police officers to the duties instead;

Cutting $120,000 from "constituent services" budget used by the eight council members.

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