On Tuesday October 25, 2011 PLEA executive board members Ken Crane and Frank Marino addressed the Phoenix City Council regarding our concerns over abolishing the 2% emergency food tax and reductions or elimination of the jail excise tax.
The temporary emergency food tax was implemented by the City Council approximately 18 months ago as a stop gap measure to shore up a 50M dollar budget deficit. The implementation of this tax which is set to expire in 2015 provided much needed funds that prevented layoffs to public safety personnel. Funds garnered by this tax also enabled the city to keep after school programs, elder care, extended hours for public transportation, and to keep parks and libraries open. There are several members of the council in favor of abolishing this tax. To do so suddenly and without alternative means of income, would mean the general fund would suffer an immediate 30M dollar shortfall 20M of which goes directly to public safety.
The council ultimately voted to table the food tax issue until the November session, which will take place after the current mayoral and city council elections.
The jail excise tax is a fee that is attached to every resident’s monthly water bill. These funds are then used by the city to pay MCSO for prisoners that are booked by Phoenix officers. Phoenix currently pays approx $180/prisoner and pays an additional $75 if that same prisoner has to stay more than one night. PLEA secretary Frank Marino, in his comments to the council, made the point that while Phoenix officers make every attempt to avoid jail bookings when possible, that sometimes booking suspects is required and is “just the cost of doing business.”
The council understands this and requested that the issue be tabled until city budget and research analysts can obtain additional data to see if funds can be garnered by means other than through fees attached to water billings.