Phoenix City Council passes budget with food tax increase

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX - The Phoenix city budget was passed on Tuesday evening after a marathon session.

The session began at 10 a.m. at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix and with a 7 - 2 vote council members adopted the budget, which will end up saving hundreds of jobs but it will do so by the imposition of a 2 percent food tax which will go into effect on April 1.

The controversial issue of the food tax has divided both the city council and the public alike.

Thomas Castanza, who was opposed to the tax, said to the council, 'You implement an 'emergency' food tax because of ineptitude." Castanza says he does not like the levy even though supporters say it helps save hundreds of police and firefighters jobs.

Also part of the budget is a 3.2 percent "pay and benefits cut" across the board for local unions including Phoenix firefighters.

Chief Bob Khan, with the Phoenix Fire Department, says, "This was truly a bright moment.for the City of Phoenix. Just seeing those groups come together, not seeing the mean-spirited rhetoric that was going on, seeing people work together and coming up with a solution."

It was clear that public safety was the priority in the 15 public hearings the city held on the budget. In spite of the more than $50 million a year the levy is expected to generate, there is fear the underlying budget problem has not been addressed.

A total of 520 jobs will be cut from the city payrolls although 3TV has learned most of those will be through retirement.