by Jim Nintzel
It appears that City Manager Mike Letcher has not found much support from the Tucson City Council for a tax on residential rental payments, which raises the question of why he'd even bring it up, knowing that it would bring a mammoth crowd out the Tucson Convention Center for tomorrow's City Council meeting.
Ward 3 City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, who may be facing a recall campaign, announced today that she would not support a rental/landlord tax this year, although she left the door open for the next budget year.
Here's Uhlich's email:
I have heard from many people who live, work, and invest in Tucson. I appreciate the input, and want to share with you my thoughts as I prepare for the Mayor and Council budget discussion tomorrow.
To the point, Mayor and Council must balance this years budget just as families and small businesses across the City have—by cutting spending. This economic downturn is like no other in recent history. Families have already cut the luxuries like cable, internet, and cell phone service and eating out; many are resorting to doubling up in housing just to make ends meet. Businesses have laid off some or most employees because sales simply do not cover payroll anymore. We may have hoped City government could get through this without taking similar, drastic steps but the deepening shortfall this year proves that we can't.
Current Fiscal Year (through June 30, 2010)
I believe Mayor and Council should move to immediately cut spending as proposed by the City Manager (see City Manager proposal link below). His proposal was developed with input from Department Heads, City Staff, the Labor Council, and the public through the recent Community Services Dialogue. Increasing user fees (e.g. recreation class fees) will also cut our general fund spending.
I also believe we must identify additional cuts to balance this years budget instead of revisiting the Landlord Tax as an option at this time.
This may mean cuts in employee benefits and more layoffs. Like families and small businesses across the City, we have to cut
our spending to match our income. I will advocate that we continue to protect core services (public safety, transportation/streets, parks/recreation).
Next Fiscal Year (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011) and Beyond
We must continue dialogue with the public regarding potential new revenues to balance next year's budgetif additional funds will be needed to preserve core City services. I agree with the City Manager. We cannot bow to special interest pressure that would shut down consideration of ways to diversify the City's funding base. The public and our City Charter demand that we provide the basics-public safety, transportation, parks/recreation. We may need the landlord tax, a voter-approved property tax, or other new revenues to cover core service costs.
We must also develop a plan to sell City land/assets and consolidate services with other governments(e.g. IT, procurement functions) in order to reduce the debt burden of the City and reduce annual operating costs over the longer term.
We must also continue to cut red tape and City enforcement actionsthat jeopardize local small businesses made fragile by the economic downturn. These businesses create most of the jobs in Tucson and many are hanging by a thread to survive. They deserve to be supported.
I want to assure that I am thinking well into the future even as we solve this immediate budget challenge. Tucson will weather this downturn and emerge with renewed strength if we make the tough decisions needed now.