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South Tucson budget deficit could impact police and fire service - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

South Tucson budget deficit could impact police and fire services

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The city of South Tucson has multiple options on the table to reduce a budget shortfall of $515,000, a number that continues to fluctuate, according to city officials.

One of the proposed options includes imposing a primary property tax. In the proposal, the cost would be $3,451 for the average property owner (home valued at $77,000), according to South Tucson budget documents.

The primary property tax could potentially cover costs associated with operating the fire department, which is $914,466 per year.

“Everybody will be taken care of. We're not going to sacrifice public safety. We may have to rearrange some things but we're not going to public safety,” said Sixto Molina, South Tucson city manager.  

Another option, which Molina emphasized is more “probable,” is to reduce debt by not filling vacant positions.

South Tucson officials are already in talks with private entities to provide emergency medical services.

Officials with the cities of South Tucson and Tucson have been engaged in preliminary discussions on the issue.

The email from Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega to the mayor and council members, states, “Specifically, their request (South Tucson’s request) is basically as follows:

  1. Provide police services from 2am – 6 am
  2. Provide fire and EMS services.”

Ortega went on to say, “It will be difficult to provide policing services for a specific time-frame during the day without dealing with the other services that go along with policing such as evidence storage and court appearances to name a few. The logistics would be difficult.”

Ortega noted the city of Tucson does recognize the value in partnering with South Tucson due to criminal activity not having jurisdictional bounds.

In regard to fire and EMS services, Ortega said, “We do not think we should provide EMS services as there are other options available to CoST (city of South Tucson.”

If Tucson were to supplement the city of South Tucson with police and or fire services, Ortega said it would likely mean hiring additional personnel.

"If we have to close the shop down completely and rely on say, the Tucson Fire Department that has three fire stations within two miles, sure you're going to have a little bit of an increase in response times,” Molina said.

Molina said no decisions have been made at this time. The budget options will go before the South Tucson City Council.

The goal is to have a solidified budget plan in order by early June. 

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