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Budget proposal shows Phoenix faces cuts if food tax repealed

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

If you live in Phoenix, you're paying more at the grocery store thanks to a 2 percent food tax. Many city leaders have been recommending repealing the tax, but after Tuesday's first look at the city's 2013 budget, doing so could mean dire cuts to services, including the number of cops on the streets.

"We should get rid of that food tax but not in a way that would hurt public safety," said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

City Manager David Cavazos presented two budget scenarios to the City Council Tuesday - one in which the 2010 food tax stays, another in which it goes.

If the tax stays, the city said they'll put 18 more officers on the streets, but will still have to get rid of nearly 69 full-time city employees. Also, employees wouldn't be restored to their full pay yet since taking a cut two years ago. Stanton said they're not taking in enough money to restore the full pay.

"Our revenue is not as high as we projected," Stanton said. "Our pension payments, our legally required pension payments, are higher."

In the second scenario, in which the food tax is repealed, Phoenix would take 99 officers off the streets and would also put 162 city employees out of a job.

"The consequences are too dire without it," said Joe Clure, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. He said they've already cut 400 positions over the years and adding another 100 to that would be a huge hit.

Others we talked to are concerned about cuts to other city services, like public transportation

"While I'm certainly not in favor of paying more taxes than I need to, I'm less in favor of the service cuts that would happen," said Jennifer Longdon.

"The public is being taken advantage of once again," said Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio. He said the city is using scare tactics to keep the food tax and believes there's a way to trim the budget without impacting public safety.

"Let's come up with a reasonable approach to get rid of the food tax, let's try and find a way to do that," he said.

The city is holding several community meetings over the next few weeks to get public input. For more information, visit: http://phoenix.gov/budget.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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