Phoenix budget battle grows, fee increases part of proposed plan to ease deficit

5-cent grocery bag fee proposed

PHOENIX - Phoenix leaders are considering how to plug a nearly $38 million budget deficit.

Among the ideas: a five-cent fee on grocery bags.

The budget hole can be filled with a mix of new revenue, cuts, and efficiencies, City Manager Ed Zuercher said.

“A small amount from everyone will solve the problem, instead of requiring a big amount from a few people,” Zuercher said.

New revenue proposals include the grocery-bag fee, a change in parking meter pricing, the addition of parking meters at Phoenix mountain parks, and a new fee on water bills.

The new parking meters at mountain parks (which would charge the proposed, citywide rate of between $0.50 - $6.00 based on demand), would mean Chrissy Sullivan’s four-hour hike on Camelback Mountain would cost up to $24.

Sullivan said that she might instead use that money to get a gym membership.

“One of the great things about Phoenix is the affordability,” Sullivan said.

“If they start up charging everything, then it's going to become a lot less convenient and fun of a city.”

Zuercher sent city employees an email Thursday that said he proposed all city employees take a 1.6 percent pay cut for the 2014-2015 budget year, followed by a 0.9% cut the following year.

The budget is still in the brainstorming stage.

The city has held more than 20 public-input sessions since the proposals were revealed, a city spokesperson said.

Zuercher, the city manager, will present a revised proposal on May 6 to the City Council.

There will then be more public input meetings, which have not been scheduled, before Council votes on a finalized budget on May 20, the spokesperson said.

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