Tempe will not sponsor a float for the upcoming Fiesta Bowl Parade, a decision made to help cut expenses and offset a possible budget deficit.
The move will end a tradition for the city dating back about two decades, while saving more than $64,000 this year. It also will further sever the community’s ties with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, now played in Tempe at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium but scheduled to move to Glendale in 2006.
The City Council’s decision could leave the parade without any float sponsored by a Valley municipality this year.
No other communities have committed to paying for one.
Councilman Ben Arredondo said the Fiesta Bowl’s plan to move the game to Glendale was not a factor in the decision Thursday night. "This was strictly about managing our budget," Arredondo said. "Everything that comes across the council needs to be heavily scrutinized."
The financial services department released a report in March forecasting a $7 million deficit in two years. The report goes on to say those deficits will balloon to $7.8 million by fiscal 2006-07, which could threaten the quality of city services.
The city plans to create a short-term committee made of council members, residents and community business representatives to cut unnecessary expenses from the budget.
Because float construction was scheduled to begin in late September or early October, the council could not wait for the committee to be assembled before making a decision.
"We’ve got to remind ourselves to be saving money for a rainy day because there a dark clouds on the horizon," said Mayor Hugh Hallman.
Hallman said the grim economic projection has forced the council to cut costs anywhere they can.
"If we can save sixty grand at every council meeting," Hallman said, "That adds up to more than a million dollars at the end of the year."
The city already had bought $5,000 in tickets for the parade. The city will make the 200 tickets available online on a first-come-first-serve basis, said Shelly Hearn, a spokeswoman for the city who was coordinating the float’s design.
Construction had not moved beyond the design phase, city officials said. In the past, staff members would draw up plans and then order the float from a company in Portland, Ore.
Last year, Tempe was the only Valley community that paid for a float, said Gina Chappin, a Fiesta Bowl spokeswoman.
During the past couple of years, Chappin said the number of city sponsored floats has diminished. Scottsdale, Tempe and Phoenix each had a float in the 2002 parade.
This year, the parade will be held Dec. 31, making its way through downtown Phoenix on Central Avenue.
While the city still hosts the Tempe Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Block Party on New Year’s Eve, the move further cuts the community’s ties with the bowl game. Besides moving the annual game to the new Arizona Cardinals football stadium in Glendale, the Fiesta Bowl also will be moving its corporate headquarters out of Tempe. Chappin expects to move into the new facilities in Scottsdale by sometime late next year.
"It’s been a great relationship and it’s unfortunate that things ended up the way they did," said Vice Mayor Mark Mitchell. "I’m hoping that there will be opportunities for the city to work with the Fiesta Bowl in the future."