Category Archives: Finances

Join us for a Curbside Chat with Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, Aug. 8

City of Phoenix Manager’s Message: Budget Update & “Thank You”

[Source: City of Phoenix]

This message was sent to all City of Phoenix e-mail users:

Dear fellow employees:

As you know, last Sunday was the Super Bowl. As millions of Americans spent the day enjoying the big game, a Water Services crew was busy repairing a water main break at 48th Street and Charleston Avenue.

Few motorists paid attention to the city crew as they worked in the cold and dark to fix the leak. But one person noticed, and he took the time to send the city an e-mail, which says:

“I would like to thank the crew of the City Water Department who came out yesterday (Sunday) because of a water main break and stayed into the late evening to get it repaired. Then, they came back this morning and cleaned up the mud in front of our home as a result of that break. They did a great job and I’m much appreciative of their efforts.”

I, too, appreciate their efforts and the efforts of all our city employees. I know you work long hours, weekends and even some holidays to serve the community. Even if you have an 8-to-5 schedule, you’re probably checking your Blackberries, responding to pages or taking phone calls throughout the evening. Many of you probably attend community meetings at night or staff facilities that are open late. I have no doubt that some of you have missed out on important family events and celebrations because you had a job to do serving the residents of Phoenix.

The city has formal programs, such as the Employee Excellence Awards and the Employee Suggestion Program, to recognize city employees. However, there’s nothing like a heartfelt “thank you” from a customer or resident. I’m pleased to share a few more recent examples:

  • Solid Waste Equipment Operator Adrian Lopez received a special Christmas card from a little customer, a boy who is fascinated with garbage trucks. Adrian always takes the time to honk and wave to the little boy each time he passes the house. To show her gratitude, the boy’s Mom made a Christmas card especially for Adrian.
  • An Arizona Republic reader recently commended an unidentified Phoenix Police officer who bought breakfast for a homeless man who had entered a restaurant to ask for directions. “The homeless man thanked the officer, who seemed embarrassed by the attention,” the reader wrote in a letter to the newspaper. “I felt it was important to pass on this kind gesture of one of Phoenix’s finest.”
  • And this, from a library customer: “I just wanted to let you know the great experience I had at the Library on Saturday… Visiting the Library is always one of the greatest pleasures for my family.  Thanks for all that you and your staff do.”

The Mayor, City Council and I would like to join the chorus of thanks and express our gratitude for all you do for the city.

On Tuesday, we honored three city employees who were also dedicated public servants: Officer Travis Paul Murphy, Robert Scully and Hugh T. McMurray Jr. They were remembered at the annual Employee Memorial Ceremony for employees who have passed away in the course of their duties.  Thanks to everyone who attended the event or worked hard to organize it. I am especially grateful to the Mayor, Council members, department heads and other leaders of our city organization for their continued support of the Memorial Ceremony.

On a final note, I am happy to share some exciting news with you. City holiday sales tax collected in January (December 2010 sales) was 12.5% higher than the same period last year! The largest and most encouraging aspect of city holiday sales was the retail component of General Fund sales tax, which grew by 14.8% over the same period last year.

This is the highest January growth rate in total City General Fund Sales tax since January 2005 and the first positive January growth since 2008. Several categories of sales tax contributed to this positive growth, including retail, contracting, and restaurants and bars. I know many of you did your part by shopping Phoenix during the holiday season.

Thank you for your commitment to the community and for your continued hard work.

— David Cavazos


City of Phoenix considers a four day work week

[Source: 94.5 Kool FM]

Thursday could become the new Friday for thousands of Phoenix city employees in an effort to save money and keep workers happy.

Phoenix officials are considering mandatory Fridays off for administrative employees but would exempt those who support functions that can’t be shut down such as water-plant employees, aviation workers and public-safety staff.

If approved, Phoenix would become the largest municipality in the state and the country on a mandatory four-day schedule, where employees typically work 10-hour days with Fridays off.

Amid the economic downturn of the past two years, many public and private employers have adopted modified schedules to reduce costs and lift workers’ sagging spirits. Faced with enormous budget deficits, cities are saving money by closing offices one day a week. And with widespread layoffs and pay cuts casting a gloom over offices, giving workers a three-day weekend boosts both employee morale and productivity, say supporters of four-day workweeks.

Several Valley cities and towns including Avondale, Buckeye, Fountain Hills, Queen Creek, Peoria and Mesa are already on a four-day workweek.

If adopted, the modified schedule would close offices in downtown Phoenix on Fridays, mainly City Hall, the Calvin C. Goode Building, Historic City Hall and the Personnel Building. About 2,000 of the city’s roughly 15,400 employees work in these buildings, where residents go to do everything from obtaining building permits, paying water bills or applying for business licenses.

The modified mandatory schedule, however, would not operate citywide, said Cathy Gleason, Phoenix’s budget and research director.

“Clearly we wouldn’t apply it to libraries community centers and senior centers,” Gleason said. “You can’t say we’re going to shut it all down.”

The city already allows for flexible schedules, and some employees, like garbage collectors and patrol officers, work 10-hour days, four days a week. But now city officials are weighing the pros and cons of introducing a four-day workweek for office workers. It is still unclear if city management will suggest the program to the City Council for adoption or when it would launch.

Gleason said the financial benefits of a four-day workweek aren’t overwhelming. The city would save about $200,000 annually in custodial, energy and overtime costs with the switch.

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City plans to cut free downtown Phoenix DASH bus route

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix plans to downsize the free Downtown Area Shuttle’s bus routes on July 26, but a downtown business group is lobbying prevent some of the cuts.   Because of city budget reductions, the DASH will lose its “downtown loop,” which stops at or near many key downtown cultural attractions, including the Phoenix Convention Center, Heritage Square, hotels, and the Orpheum Theatre.  The more heavily-used “government loop” will continue.  It links the county government campus and the state government complex, which lie farther west.

The change will save Phoenix’s Public Transit Department $317,000 annually in its $175 million bus operations budget.  “When we cut there is a method to the madness.  We want to affect the least amount of people,” transit spokeswoman Yvette Roeder said.  The government loop had 459,984 boardings in fiscal 2009, city figures show, while the downtown loop had 71,266 boardings. A boarding is a one-way trip made by one rider.

The Downtown Phoenix Partnership wants the city to save at least part of the downtown loop, said David Roderique president and CEO of the business group. The partnership, which contributes $18,000 annually to the DASH, plans to meet with transit officials in a few weeks to discuss options, Roderique said.   [Note: Read the full article at City plans to cut free downtown Phoenix DASH bus route.]

Phoenix residents urged to complete U.S. Census form

[Source: City of Phoenix] — If you have not mailed back your census form, it’s not too late — just fill it out and mail it back.  If you didn’t receive a form, here’s the number to call: 1-866-872-6868.

Why?  The U.S. Constitution requires that the census — a count of everyone living in the United States — takes place every 10 years.  So it’s the law.  What’s more, filling out the brief, 10-question census form will guarantee the services you need.  For Phoenix residents, each person counted means $400 in federal and state funds for community services we all depend on:

  • Safe and clean parks
  • Neighborhood fire stations
  • Libraries with bilingual materials
  • Senior services
  • Head Start programs
  • Local bus service
  • And more

On average, every person counted in Arizona equals about $1,550 every year in funding.  Getting an accurate count in the census also:

  • Determines boundaries of Phoenix City Council districts
  • Draws state legislative districts
  • Allocates the number of Congressional seats for each state
  • Fairly distributes more than $400 billion annually in federal, state, city, and tribal funds to Phoenix residents based on an accurate population count

Jackson Street Entertainment District on shaky ground

Rendering of proposed Jackson Street Entertainment District

[Source: Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — A blockbuster plan to create a downtown Phoenix entertainment district is in jeopardy as the lender filed a notice of trustee sale on several of the properties involved.  At the same time, three major Valley high-rise condo projects are poised for major court dates that could dramatically affect their future viability.

ML Manager LLC, the company created to administer the loans of Mortgages Ltd. following its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, filed a notice of trustee sale March 17 on several parcels that would have formed the core of the proposed Jackson Street Entertainment District.  The auction is scheduled for June 17.  SOJAC I LLC, headed by former co-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dale Jensen, was the entity that borrowed $24.2 million from Mortgages Ltd. in February 2007 to purchase properties on Third, Fourth, Buchanan, and Lincoln streets.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix homebuyers may qualify for financial help in purchasing foreclosure

[Source: City of Phoenix] — Potential homebuyers may qualify for $15,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to help buy a foreclosed single-family home, townhouse, or condominium in the city of Phoenix.  The city of Phoenix Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) Homeownership Assistance Program is presenting two information sessions to outline eligibility criteria.  The first session will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, at Devonshire Senior Center, 2802 E. Devonshire Ave. and the other from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, at the Washington Activity Center, 2240 W. Citrus Way.

The loan is only repaid to the city when the homebuyer sells the home, refinances, or moves.  The home must pass a Housing Quality Standards or FHA standards inspection and funds cannot be used for rehabilitation activities.  Families must be Federal Housing Administration creditworthy and complete the required eight-hour Homeownership Education and two-hour one-on-one Credit Assessment counseling.  The property must be maintained as the principal residence and the total household income must be below 120 percent of area median income, which is based on family size.  Participants must contribute a minimum of $1,000 of their personal funds for down payment and closing costs.

More sessions will be offered throughout the city during the next few months.  Funding for this program will end by late summer.  For more information about the program, a list of future sessions and other homeownership opportunities, call 602-262-6602 or click here.

Piper, Flinn foundations allocate funds to metro Phoenix arts groups

[Source: Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust & Flinn Foundation] — A total of $1.25 million will go into a one-time arts and culture initiative resulting from redirecting remaining grant funds from the wind-down of Metro Phoenix Partnership for Arts and Culture (MPAC).   The Flinn Foundation and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, MPAC’s two major funders, have designated the outstanding funds for the Flinn-Piper Strengthening the Arts Initiative.  The initiative has two parts:

  • The Flinn Emergency Fund for Arts Organizations comprising $500,000 in unrestricted grants to 21 arts and culture organizations.
  • The Piper Arts Restructuring and Transformation Fund (ART Fund) of up to $750,000 to implement new nonprofit structures, processes and collaborative ventures to increase revenue and reduce costs.  Piper Trust previously made one-time unrestricted grants to 39 arts and culture organizations.

The Flinn fund will make grants to Maricopa County arts and culture organizations that had received funding historically from the Flinn Foundation. Grant amounts are based on the annual operating budgets of the 21 arts and culture nonprofits.  Flinn does not provide general operating support as a rule but has made an exception given the urgent needs of arts and culture organizations, according to Jack Jewett, president and CEO, Flinn Foundation.  “The arts and culture institutions that play such an important role in our community continue to face severe challenges in the midst of the ‘Great Recession,'” said Jewett.  “We hope these modest grants will provide at least temporary relief in meeting immediate operating needs.”

Piper Trust will use the ART Fund to award two-year grants of $50,000 to $150,000. Successful projects will investigate and implement new business methods that change the organization’s business model and approach to mission to promote long-term financial stability.  The grants are not intended for short-term, cash-flow needs or current core operating costs.  “The daunting new arts and culture world of changing demographics and persistent economic insecurity requires arts and culture organizations to examine new ways to do business,” said Judy Jolley Mohraz, Piper Trust president and CEO.  Organizations eligible for the program are Piper Trust arts and culture grantees with annual operating budgets over $250,000.  The Trust will send application information directly to the 36 eligible Maricopa County organizations.  Piper Trust hopes to award the ART Fund grants by mid-August.

The Flinn Foundation and Piper Trust also have agreed to co-sponsor a four-day April 2011 Arizona Town Hall about the impact of arts and culture on Arizona’s economy.  A survey of Town Hall members revealed the need to address the creation of a vibrant statewide economy incorporating arts and culture.  Each organization will make a grant of $25,000 for the program.  [Note: Read the full press release at Piper, Flinn foundations allocate funds to metro Phoenix arts groups.]

ASU plans to end partnership role in downtown Phoenix med school

Proposed Health Sciences Education Building, Phoenix Biomedical Campus

[Source: Anne Ryman, Arizona Republic] — When the University of Arizona opened a college of medicine in downtown Phoenix in 2006, the endeavor was hailed as a national model, given the heavy involvement of its long-standing rival, Arizona State University.  Now, a scant three years later, that partnership is likely ending — the latest victim of state budget cuts.  ASU officials confirmed that they plan to pull out of the project and that early next month, the Arizona Board of Regents will vote whether to give full operating responsibilities for the school to UA.

University and regents officials said Friday that ASU’s impending departure will not impact the students, the school’s accreditation or its planned $187 million expansion into a new medical building.  “ASU has a lot of other responsibilities, and this wasn’t their top priority.  It was UA’s,” said Dr. William Crist, UA’s vice president for health affairs.  “At the end, they (ASU officials) felt squeezed financially.”

The announcement comes as UA is preparing to break ground on the five-story Health Sciences Education Building near Seventh and Van Buren streets.  The new building will allow the medical school to gradually expand class size to 110 students annually, up from the current 48.  The building is being financed with bonds that will be paid off with Arizona Lottery revenue, but the universities are expected to pay 20 percent of the total costs.  Crist said UA hopes to cover those expenses through fund-raising; it already has a $15 million federal grant to put toward construction.  [Note: To read the full article, visit ASU plans to end partnership role in downtown Phoenix med school.]

New Phoenix 2% food tax goes into effect

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The Phoenix City Council-approved 2 percent retail sales tax on food for home consumption went into effect today and will sunset in five years.  Prior to the sales tax, prepared foods, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco were the only food items subject to the privilege sales tax.  Food purchased with food stamps will remain exempt.

The ordinance, approved on Feb. 2, amends the city of Phoenix tax code to adopt a Model City Tax Code Option 2, which provides for the taxation of the sale of food for home consumption under the retail- and use-tax business classifications.  The annual food tax revenue will be about $50 million and by implementing the tax in April, $62.5 million will be collected over the next 15 months.

Licensed businesses that engage in retail food sales activity in Phoenix can refer to the instructions on the tax bulletin enclosed in the February and March tax return mailing or clicking here for a copy of the tax bulletin. Businesses not currently licensed in Phoenix can click here for licensing information and to obtain a license application form.

For general information regarding the sales tax, call 602-262-6785, option 6, or send an e-mail.