Tucson set to raise trash, parking & development fees

Blake Morlock
11 Min Read

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and the city of Tucson wants your green under its Tannenbaum.

Yes, the City Council is starting the process to hike fees, so you can give them more money. Isn’t that festive?

Tucson’s elected leaders will discuss starting a process aimed at raising development fees, increasing parking fees for the first time in 10 years and will be reminded they already raised the price of residential trash collection by $3 a month with a vote in January. It takes effect January 1.

So what’s going on? If I were a tad more cynical, I’d say they’re lumping these increases together on a single agenda at the start of the Christmas season because they think people won’t be paying attention. I’d have to be  a genuine humbug of a journalist to point out that they didn’t discuss these fee increases a month ago. Weren’t four of the them up for re-election? Why yes, they were.

In each case, the city staff explains raising the fees is necessary to operate each program like a business/enterprise fund, though in the case of development fees they want to run the approval process more effectively. 

The other two programs are facing cash flow problems.

The city runs the Environmental Services Department on fees charged to builders and developers. Parking is failing to raise expected revenues because people aren’t going Downtown in pre-pandemic numbers. Residential trash fees aren’t covering the cost of delivery. In fact, the city is expecting to “under-recover” $11 million in fiscal year 2024 and $21 million the following year.  

The trash collection increase was actually approved in January with the requirement that the city do a study to make sure residential fees don’t subsidize commercial fees. Surprise, surprise, the study proved this was not the case.

Parking rates will increase $1 to park on weekends in various city garages and lots. Prices would go up $5 for monthly rates.

Again, the city notes fees haven’t increased since 2013 and the pandemic has taken a bite out of revenues generated by motorists using city parking. Is this the best way to fix the problem of people not parking Downtown? Think about it, are drivers more or less likely to start using a parking spots if it costs more?

Some city garages are paid for by bonds, which are repaid by the cost of a spot. If the city fails to pay bondholders, those creditors have the garage itself as collateral. So there’s that to think about.

A seven-percent increase in development service costs is required to improve services and keep projects getting approved quicker than the city’s reputation would suggest, officials said.

Those fees haven’t changed since 2010. 

The money will help fund the three departments that give new projects the OK: Planning and Development Services, Transportation and Mobility and Tucson Fire departments will all benefit from the increase. If the price increase reduces approval time, it could be kind of a wash with the effects on construction costs.

City Manager Mike Ortega will ask the city to set a timeline that would let the Council approve the fee hike in March and so would go into effect in July.

No day at the races

Last month, Councilmember Richard Fimbres asked for work to start on how to use photo radar to police street racing.

Now the Police Department is coming back with a list of options for the Council to consider. The price tag totals $1 million.

Most of the equipment/toys police would get are cameras, license plate readers and a “mobile enforcement van.” Sorry, what kind of vans are immobile and why would a police department buy one?

Included in the seven-figure price tag is a request for a gunshot detection system. Hey, why not? It only costs $226,000.

The Council will also get a couple briefings to update them on ongoing crises/issues the city is trying to handle.

The seccod incarnation of the Regional Tranpsoration Plan is being hammered into a ballot question to take to voters and the City Council is a bit paranoid that its priorities will get shortchanged.

However, a Citizens Advisory Committee is still mulling options for a final draft list of projects with updated cost projections. The draft will be ready next month. The Council has asked for monthly rundowns on what’s what with the “RTA Next” plan. Well, November is a month even if the only news is no news.

Also, councilmembers will hear about the city’s efforts to fight homelessness. The city’s Housing First team have assisted 152 individuals at three temporary housing sites set up around Tucson and has another 500 people it is helping to find permanent solutions.

The Council will vote to extend a permit and deal with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District to store CAP water in the Lower Santa Cruz County basin.

This is additional storage used when other storage facilities are at capacity and the city wants to put about 30,000 acre feet of water into the city has excess water to store.

The permit with the state to operate Lower Santa Cruz storage system expired in 2018 and the agreement with the Conservation District to pump water there expired this year.

So the Council will probably re-up both.

Also during the Cuncil’s regular meeting are a couple intergovernmental agreements with the University of Arizona to help with a census of people living without permanent shelter and to put in place Tucson’s “Resilient Together” climate action plan.

The city staff provided no further detail but the basics speak for themselves. Tucson does an annual count of the number of people without homes and UA is ready to help. The climate plan has a whole bunch of measures that can be enacted locally to help fight the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions.

Folks over at the university seem to be saying “yeah, count us in on that one.” How much campus climate resiliency actually happens remains to be seen.

1010 sold?

The Tucson Unified School District might be on the verge of selling its headquarters at 1010 E. 10th Street. 

Up Campus, a residential property developer catering to younger residents, has put in a bid to buy the district’s longtime home for $18 million.

TUSD would then be free to pursue a deal to move into the UA Service Annex at 220 W. 6th Street — known to many as the former TEP building.

The Boverning Board will get a look at the terms of the offer during its Tuesday meeting.  It’s listed as an “informational item” so no vote can be taken but the board can direct the staff to move on the offer.

The property has grown problematic, in part because the cooling system breaks down in the summer and that forces the staff to work from home.

Voters approved a 2010 ballot measure allowing the district to sell its headquarters, known formally as the Morrow Education Center and informally as just 1010.

The deal could move to closing quickly if the board gives its hunky-dory.

Also, the school district is money from a settlement with e-cigarette manufacturers and will be spending more than $950,000 for up to seven years.

The district has set to a committee of its own representatives, the Pima County Health Department, substance abuse counselors and physicians with experience in the field.

They’ve already begun a variety of programs meant to fight “substance misuse” in schools. Misuse? Are kids today smoking Marlboros filter-end-out?

The TUSD board will get a PowerPoint presentation that details 40 percent of the job the committee set out to do in September is already done. Points for speed. Deductions for not specifying what they are in the agenda documents.

“We’re spending the money. Don’t ask too many questions.” Hopefully, that’s not the message.

These agendas were put together before staff baled over the river and through the woods. It was a short week. I’ll cut governing bodies some slack because at grandmother’s house, work is not permitted at the dinner table.

Into focus

The Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board will vote to present a U.S. History textbook by National Geographic for a 60-day public review period.

The book “U.S. History: America Through the Lens” is in line with the district’s inquiry-driven philosophy of teaching the subject. A committee approved the textbook but it first must ask for feedback from the public.

Governing board members will also vote to establish two new high school classes. One is in creative writing and the other is in Spanish interpretation for medical and legal services.

Blake Morlock www.tucsonsentinel.com

2023-11-28 01:35:18 , politics Vivrr Local | TucsonSentinel.com

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