[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — In October and early November, the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix began hearing rumors that as part of budget cuts, the City of Phoenix may eliminate Village Planning Committees as well as the entire Village System. These rumors were brought to the attention of Mayor Phil Gordon.
Below are e-mail communiques from Mayor Gordon and City Manager Frank Fairbanks assuring the Coalition that regardless of whatever severe budget cuts might have to be initiated, the Village Planning Committees and Village System will be retained.
November 17, 2008 e-mail from Mayor Gordon to Paul Barnes:
Per your personal request, I am providing you with the following response to your e-mail so you may read it, send it, or discuss it with anyone you choose:
Paul, while I have not heard nor was I aware of any rumors that the city, due to “budget cuts and perhaps for other reasons as well, Phoenix may eliminate the village planning committees as well as the village system,” I informed you that I “would not support either of such actions should they be formally recommended.” I am not only reaffirming that pledge, but am committing that I would aggressively oppose any such action, formal or informal.
Please assure everyone that this won’t happen. However as we did discuss, substantial cuts will occur in all departments thus reducing service; increasing wait times; and delaying planning activities, meetings, and special projects in many cases. We did discuss that some village committees that form ad hoc or subcommittees may have to do without staff as the city may not be able to continue overtime salaries till the budget picture greatly improves. The village committees could seek through the full council, a waiver to a village subcommittee request for staff resources which if granted would then be allocated from the city’s general fund (thus taking away dollars from something else). However, let me again stress that no villages nor the system itself or any portions thereof will be eliminated. If anyone has any concerns, please have them contact me as I represent everyone in the city.
Phil Gordon, Mayor, City of Phoenix
November 17, 2008 e-mail from City Manager Frank Fairbanks to Paul Barnes:
The Mayor copied me, so let me add some information to this discussion.
First; The City by State law must have a balanced budget. City revenues are declining and will not support the current level of activity. The City has no proposed cuts at this time. We have not identified what we will propose to balance the budget. I have not yet seen all of the options yet. Budget & Research is examining all the options in cooperation with the departments. “The City,” meaning the Mayor and City Council or City Management, has not yet proposed any cuts to the Village Planning process or anywhere else. Any cuts would be proposed on January 6, 2009.
Second; About a month ago, each department head (Debra Stark in the case of Planning) was required to submit a list of what she would cut from their own department, IF their department were to be cut 30%. The Planning Department 30% list included cutting 4 of the 11 Village Planners as the worst case scenario. I am told that currently, 11 Planners staff 15 Village Planning Committees. If these 4 positions were cut, then 7 Village Planners would remain to staff the 15 Committees. Under this Planning Department submitted proposal, all Village Planning Committees would continue. If these cuts proceeded, Planning proposed that all Village Planning Committees would remain is operation, some lighter agenda meetings might be cancelled and the amount of fresh research would likely be reduced.
Third; City revenues continue to decline. We have not hit bottom. We do not have a final estimate of the percentage cuts that will be necessary because the situation is still very fluid and we don’t need a final estimate until we propose cuts. The target cuts for all civilian general fund departments are between 25% and 45%. Because of massive community support, the Police and Fire Departments will have an increase in their budgets, but this increase will not be as much as their normal cost growth.
Finally, let me add that city management also supports the village planning program and model and we have no interest in eliminating it or reducing this important part of our community.