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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Friday, August 17, 2007
Arguments Against Prop. 1

Proposition 1 is an initiative on next month's Phoenix ballot which would raise the city sales tax by .2%, 2 cents of every $10 spent, to be spent solely on the hiring and equipping of 500 new police officers and 100 new fire fighters within 24 months.


I am sure there is a comprehensive argument with alot of statistics and the like for the proposition, besides the fact that no one likes crime, the city is growing, and there is still justice to be done. If there is such an argument, I haven't seen it from the supporters. There is however an implicit promise that children will safe city-wide, but no word yet on puppies or kittens.

A concern would be if there really are sufficient funds in the proposition for the job. The proposed increase would boost the general city sales tax from 1.8 to 2%; the City estimates a haul of about $468 million for this fiscal year under the existing rate. So let's estimate a take from Prop. 1 of about $51 million or about $85,000 to hire, train, and equip each fire and police recruit, give or take. Of course, these new officers represent a boost of 16% in the number of sworn police officers and would need to be on the job within 24 months. On top of that the Police Department just boosted the starting salary for new officers by $8,000, has trouble filling 1,000 needed new officers over the next 3 years, and is recruiting candidates nation-wide with trips to Detroit and California. Given all of those problems with 1,000 new officers, could the City be effective with recruiting 1,500?

That's just an implementation concern, supply and demand and all of that.

However here are my 2 big questions:

1) Given the large increases in the City of Phoenix's budget over the past few years, why wasn't such a supposed pressing need funded out of existing revenue? What more pressing needs does the City have than expanding the force? Estimated General Fund increase for 2007-08 is 9.4% or $96 million.

2) Currently Phoenix has a ratio of about 527 residents to every sworn officer, with Phoenix's population increasing at about 30,000 residents per year (based on Census estimates for the past 5 years) by the time the new 500 officers would come online in 2009, that ratio would be about 476 residents. If population growth remains steady and Phoenix doesn't create one new full time officer position beyond those funded by Prop. 1, the ratio would drop to back to the old number of 527 within 6 to 7 years.

So what guarantees do the residents of Phoenix have that if they raise their taxes to add 500 new officers to the police force that the City would work to keep the police force at the new level instead of using the new revenue to displace existing police resources to other city departments?

None, as far as I can see.

Pick 1 of the 2 or both if you wish, but until there some answers there are too many questions.