Glendale looking at deep cuts if voters kill sales tax

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- City officials in Glendale are looking at the worst-case scenario should voters shoot down a 0.7 percent tax increase when they go to the polls in November.

Meant to help close a $32 million budget gap, that tax kicked in last month. Now there's a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot to overturn it.

The City Council is slated to meet in a special session Tuesday afternoon to discuss their plan should voters choose to nix the tax.

The plan could involve cutting up to 20 percent of the city's work force. Those cuts would affect every department, including police and fire.

Firefighters say losing those positions -- as many as 150 between the two departments, including first responders -- will have a significant impact.

"It could be up to another four minutes of extended response time," said Glendale firefighter Joe Hester. "Our business is the business of seconds and minutes. When you talk about four minutes added to our already six-minute response, every minute that a fire burns, it doubles in size. Every minute that someone is in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival drops 10 percent. When you add for minutes to it, it absolutely cripples our ability to provide meaningful service."

According to Acting City Manager Horatio Skeete, some cuts are inevitable. It's just a matter of how deep they will be.

The worst-case scenario also would involve the closure of two city libraries, one city swimming pool, and Glendale's television station. It also would cancel all festivals, including the popular Glendale Glitters.

The 0.7 percent tax at issue, which was initially passed by the City Council to help keep the Phoenix Coyotes playing at the city-owned Arena, was projected to generate as much as $25 million per year.

A group called Save Glendale Now collected the necessary signatures and fought to put the sales-tax decision on the November ballot.

“All the other surrounding cities are significantly less in terms of sales tax so Glendale continues to lose business to neighboring cities like Peoria, Phoenix and Avondale,” Connie Wilhelm, Treasurer of Save Glendale Now, told 3TV's Kristine Harrington last month.