Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and the city council want to raise property taxes. A median valued home of $149,500 would see an annual increase of $58.31.

In 2008 the council voted to keep property taxes elevated in order to pay city bills. Last year they increased our water bills 10 percent.

Tempe has become an expensive city to operate, and live in. But should it be? Consider the following:

Tempe, population 161,719, has 1,602 employees or 9.9 per 1,000 residents, the most in the East Valley. Mesa, population 439,041, has 8.2; Chandler, population 236,123, 6.6; and Gilbert, population 208,453, has 5.7.

Tempe’s city council is the highest paid in the East Valley. The part-time mayor makes $54,409 annually and council members get $27,747. Other East Valley mayors and council members average $37,000 and $19,000.

Last year Tempe coerced us to vote for the fourth sales tax increase since 1994 or suffer cuts in police officers on patrol.

Police protection has always been the rallying cry when it comes to taxing and spending.

But Tempe’s costs for policing are disproportionately high when compared to other East Valley cities.

Tempe spends $410 per resident for policing — Chandler $350, Mesa $321 and Gilbert $176. Tucson spends $382. Arizona State University has its own police force.

Since 2003, calls for police service in Tempe have dropped from nearly 200,000 to 156,889 in 2010. Crime is down across the East Valley.

But since 2007, Tempe PD’s upper ranks have swollen.

In 2007 there were 14 command officers above the rank of sergeant and approximately 335 sworn officers of all ranks. Today there are 19 command officers above the rank of sergeant and 340 sworn officers. Three of the current command officers retired from the Tempe PD, were rehired and are now double-dippers — collecting retirement benefits while being employed by the same agency at the same time.

In 2007 there was one civilian support assistant for the chief. Now there are three.

Even with two veteran command officers with law degrees on the chief’s staff and the city legal department available, Tempe PD keeps a civilian legal advisor on the payroll who is paid six-figures.

Tempe has three assistant police chiefs, the same as Mesa. But Mesa has more than twice as many officers to oversee — 777 to 340. Gilbert PD has 226 officers, two commanders and no assistant chiefs.

Tempe’s chief has the highest top pay in the East Valley — and $15,000 more than Tucson.

More command officers at headquarters means fewer officers on patrol.

Tempe’s policing costs go beyond command bloat.

Tempe is 40 square miles and has four police stations. Mesa covers 133 square miles with four stations, Chandler has 65 square miles and three stations and Gilbert with 76 square miles has just two.

A 2010 Tempe city memo said the police department has 84 take-home vehicles. Chandler PD has 317 officers and half the number of take home-vehicles.

City and police officials declined to answer questions regarding police command officers and support staff driving city vehicles up to 65 miles or more round-trip to and from work.

The city council’s 2007 spending of $258,000 at the police chief’s request to repaint police patrol cars black and white instead of transitioning to a new color scheme over time like other East Valley cities have done successfully demonstrated Tempe’s propensity to waste tax dollars.

If Tempe spent per resident what Mesa spends on policing, they’d save taxpayers over $14 million a year.

Before Mayor Hallman and the city council take more of our money to pay for their excesses, they need to cut more, spend less and then talk to me and other Tempe residents about another tax increase.

• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net

(19) comments

Gilbert Watch

Bill, Thank you for your opinion piece. Nearly two years ago, then Town Council members voted to send a tax increase (Prop 406) to the ballot. It was for "public safety." Gilbert's conservatives not only fought it and defeated it, but we also proved it was unnecessary. Just before this, the Council had pulled together a Citizens Budget Committee of 54 citizens which spent nearly 4 months meeting and pouring over different aspects of the Budget We basically "found the money." Town employees also helped in this effort. Later, at the next Council election, we replaced 3 tax and spend Council members (who had sent the tax increase to the ballot) with 3 conservatives who instituted more fiscally responsible policies. The new Council hired an excellent Town Manager. Together, they have created a more transparent, more accountable model of town government.

Suelee

Bill, you are on the right track, but the cuts need to go further. For example, all "diversity" activities should be eliminated as well as any employees associated with this boondoggle.
How about the weed patrol? The city sent post cards to all homes about citing residents with "weeds" more than so many inches tall on their property (my family has been instructed to call them "purposeful ornamental plantings"). Unless there is a major and obvious fire hazard let's not trash the environment with unnecessary herbicides.
How about the obvious conflict-of-interest departments? My daughter got a letter from the city of Tempe telling them they were going to be hit with a huge fine because their grass was not green enough in the front yard. Guess who sells the water that is needed to make the grass greener--the city of Tempe. Hmmmm.
How about saving a few bucks by coordinating street work so that it does not have be replicated shortly after a job is done. For example, why would you pave and restripe a street and then the next year tear it up and put in sewers and then have to repave and restripe the street?

billrichardson

901Fan,
Thanks.

Tucson is running $382 and Glendale comes in at $312. They both have their far share of crime producing centers. Gilbert is so low you almost have to handicap their numbers but they do run a lean department and get good results. That said, the question is, why is Tempe running almost $100 per resident more than Glendale and $28 more than Tucson. Then there's Chandler at $340 and Flagstaff comes in in the mid 200's?

While the command staff and the perks for the favored few in Tempe have grown like well watered weeds, the working cops keep telling me they are coming up short on manpower, equipment, OT and the things that are really needed to keep a city safe.

901fan

Bill,

I think it might be interesting to see what how the ratio of multi housing in each of the cities compares to how much is spent. I am not disagreeing with you, but as one mesa cop to another, you know how much it costs to police beat 14 compared to beat 11. I know Gilbert has very few multi housing complexes whereas beat 14 in mesa has more than 1/3 of Gilberts total population in that mile square. I would imagine that Tempe's has a large amount of multi housing complexes as well as single famliy homes with roomates, thusly acting more like a multi rather than a single. And like I said, i dont disagree with you, but I think there is more to the formula. But on your side, Tempe doesent even fund an air unit and mesa still gets it done cheaper. But we are running very very lean these days.

billrichardson

Ray85281,

You're welcome.

What we saw in Tempe was what we saw at the legislature, the inability to say no and remember that an elected official is there to represent our best interests and not theirs. I don't see the city employees as the source of the problem. I see the elected leadership with a tax and spend attitude and upper management that either takes the easy path by not telling the mayor and council the truth or a city management thats are nothing more than the mayor and council's puppets? Either way Tempe's elected and appointed leadership are planning on the taxpayers baling them out once again. Tempe's made some bad choices when it comes to spending, accountability, appointed leadership and employee retention. Tempe residents have also made some bad choices in who they elect and continue to keep in office. Tempe government is starting to look very much like Maricopa County government. Tempe residents can see what can be done with limited spending when they look at Gilbert. Mesa and Chandler shine when compared to Tempe. Even Glendale spends $99 less per person for policing than Tempe. There are plenty of good examples for Tempe's leadership to follow. Tempe's days of blaming ASU, the freeways and county islands for their problems no longer hold water. We all know who is responsible. Tempe residents elected them, the question is will they re-elect them in 2012?

Ray85281

Bill: thank you providing information which City management, as well as the Mayor and Council, continually wishes to ignore. When one considers that the overall crime rate is down all across our nation, the waste which permeates the Tempe Police Department becomes very obvious. Yet the City Manager, the Mayor and the Council will continue to throw money at public safety causes --- albeit wasteful --- because they ultimately want the endorsement of the Police and Fire unions come election time. God forbid you even think about mentioning possible cuts to their budgets: they’ll strike back with the usual fear mongering of the masses and threats of how bad things will really get if you even minimally reduce their budgets or staff. What this all boils down to is the fact that the City Manager (Charlie Meyers) is a failure at effectively and professionally managing the organization. He has chosen to surround himself with those who only tell him what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear (Jeff Kulaga, Chris Anaradian, Brenda Buren, Ken Jones … just to name a few). In the not-so-distant past, he chose to marginalize and demonize well-respected employees who were brave enough to speak up and question what was happening in the City. Yet now he wants employees to come forward and tell it like it really is. Give us a break, Mr. Meyers: you destroyed people who did that in the past, and now you wonder why employees don’t trust you or your senior staff! Morale is the worst I’ve ever seen in Tempe --- and that includes the Police Department. Meyers and Ryff have both exhausted their usefulness to the City and they should move on.

Rich

I'll do it free, you would probably do it that way. Your dumb kid makes 27K + ? Political math. If my kids didn't do better?

billrichardson

The top is pretty heavy when it comes to pay for Tempe’s mayor and city council members who are the highest paid in the East Valley.

The following information was obtained from city officials, the Arizona Republic archives and at http://www.tempe.gov/jims/r....

A Tempe council member makes over $6,700 more than the closet East Valley city pays its council members. The Tempe mayor makes almost $17,000 more than the closest East Valley mayor does and over $12,000 more than the mayor of Tucson.

City Council Member Pay

1. Scottsdale $18,000
2. Mesa $18,600
3. Chandler $20,000
4. Gilbert $21,000
5. Tempe $27,747

Mayor’s Annual Pay

1. Scottsdale $36,000
2. Chandler $36,000
3. Mesa $37,200
4. Gilbert $37,800
5. Tempe $54,400


In Tucson the mayor makes $42,000 annually and council members earn $24,000.

billrichardson

Rich-
Mayor Hallman is set to get an elected official retirement of 48% of his salary as mayor if he leaves office next year. 48% of $54,409 equals $26,116 plus cost of living adjustments and city employee health benefits for life. Not bad for a part-time gig. The dude could make a million bucks. Tempe taxpayers pay almost 30% of the mayor's salary into the pension plan so he can become a potential millionaire courtesy of Tempe taxpayers. All the while the mayor and council, who also get a pension and health benefits, want to raise our taxes. And don't forget the double, triple and quadruple dippers at the Tempe PD.

Rich

Why does any city do about everything cheaper? I'll give you a hint, look at the city council. How many of them aren't the children of tempe politicos? When you need to find gainful employment for all the little Arredandos, Ellis', Mitchells and Hallmans, government gets expensive.

Leon Ceniceros

Sorry to break the popular... "acclamation to higher office"....ala....."Richard III" ...by ole Will Shackspeare....lol.

Coming from LA........where there were thousands and thousands of L.A.P.D. officers...there was never, ever the.........daily on slot of ....."rapping scandals"..."sex scandals"...K-9 dog deaths...under the table "security" pay-offs, steroids...and on and on and on...........SCANDALS & QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES.........that the Local Police Departments of Phoenix, Surprise, Peoria, Chandler, Mesa, Queen Creek, Tempe, Gilbert and Apache Junction.......indulge in on not just a weekly but an almost....DAILY BASIS.

Let's just have one......LAW ENFORCEMENT ENTITIY FOR ALL OF THE VALLEY OF THE SUN............THE MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF OFFICE.
WE WOULD HAVE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS THAT DON'T ...."CHERRY PICK"..WHICH FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL LAWS...THAT THEY WERE GOING TO .......ENFORCE THAT DAY, BUT MAYBE NOT THE NEXT.
WE WOULD NOT HAVE ............"LAW ENFORCEMENT BY ....MOOD RINGS OR POLITICS.........OR ......ETHNICITY.

GOD BLESS MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, HIS STAFF AND DEPUTIES FOR MAKING........THE VALLEY OF THE SUN....THE... "SAFEST" ...COUNTY IN AMERICA

LEAD BY THE ....."TOUGHEST SHERIFF IN AMERICA"

M.C.S.O = NO "SEX SCANDALS" ....JUST ....ILLEGAL ALIEN....."SWEEPS" .

samkat

Bill: It sounds as though with your vast experience in managing city affairs that you should run for office. That way, you could clear up all of those issues you highlighted and a few more to boot.

exit526

Poorman, I guess Richardson is somewhat of a self appointed expert on Tempe and their problems NOW and BEFORE. Nothing in his columns is really new. He didn't invent these figures or statistics. He just takes the time to research and to ask questions, like he has consistently done: NOW and BEFORE. Might try listening to what he has to say for once. Sure, it's his opinion, but it makes more sense than what "they" are coming up with NOW and BEFORE.

Tommy Ryff, Hallman and their boys really dislike what Mr. Richardson writes about. As an objective reader I have always looked or waited for the other side after a Richardson piece. Nothing from "them" comes other than threats and untruths and attempts to stem his writing outlets. It is interesting how some police and civic leaders view our Constitutional rights: one set of rules for them and another set of rules for the rest of us. The corruption in our city management isn't just an opinion. Fear of those in power keeps the knowledgable employees quiet. Again, two sets of rules.

Mr. Richardson seems to be doing what other residents should be doing: Looking around and asking questions about the community we live in. He is applying some life experience from a good law enforcement career and from his tenure as a concerned resident of Tempe. You are free to do the same.

Back to the money issues. City of Tempe is looking as foolish as the Fiesta Bowl on what has been spent over the years and for what. It adds up. And what is the added value for us and our quality of life? "They" don't like to answer that question.

There is bloat and excess in Tempe. There are elected officials and there seems to be a population that doesn't know of these financial problems or doesn't care. Let's take care of the basics for our city. Let's provide what is really needed. Bloat and excess should be things of the past.

Times are getting tough and an added $58.31 does make a difference. They keep asking (or not asking) and we keep funding. When the results of the spending habits crumble and "they" duck and cover as they flee with puzzlement on their faces, remember a lone voice that spoke out.

Bill Richardson is not the only one with good questions and good observations.

Full disclosure: I am not related to Mr. Richardson, have not worked with him, have not met him, nor do I owe him money. I do enjoy his insights.

Retiree2000

Is Leon Ceniceros flippin' nuts?

Rich

Tempe always spends more and has less to show for it than any city i the valley, it is horribly and grossly mismanaged from the top down, nepotism is a hard and fast rule, just look at the council itself. Of course they'll raise taxes, again, and the way they manage things, that won't be enough. Financially Tempe is a black hole and crime-wise, it's a war zone. Highest taxes, highest crime rate, but we do have a community garden and a lake you can't swim in without a death wish.

Dale Whiting

Leon,

As I recall, Guadalupe lost it's police force due to corruption. They were forced to have the County take things over. One corrupt force succeeds the former.

Bill,

I lost interest in Tempe when its mayor lobbied the MAG to not allow the US 60 enhancements, primarily lane additions, to proceed west of Price Road. He did not want the increased noise! Tempe has more than a few loose screws in its political population. All of my Tempe acquaintenances have moved East to Mesa and points even more removed. Bill, what's keeping you?

Helpusplease

Richardson lives in Tempe so I would say he might know a little something about police mismanagement in his city. If someone just keeps digging you will find a chief who manages by fear and intimidation. Several employees want to come forward and talk but they are afraid. Look further into Chief Ryff's sexual escapades.

Leon Ceniceros

I have the solution to this increasing cost of the City of Tempe's Law Enforcement "PROBLEM".

Just do what the little town of Guadalupe did = FIRE THE COPS.....HIRE THE MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF OFFICE DEPUTIES.

Not only will you get the...."BEST"...LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN..........but the City of Tempe could also have the .....NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED...."TOUGHEST SHERIFF IN AMERICA"....SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO ......patrolling Tempe and also bringing in ....THE NATIONAL LEFT-WING LIBERAL...."NEWS CORPS".....TO FILM THE ...."SHERIFF THAT OBAMA AND THE DEMOCRATS LOVE TO HATE".

Just think of all the East Coast and West Coast Liberal, Left-Wing TV and print reporters filling up all those empty Tempe hotel and resort rooms...sitting in those empty Mill Ave. "overpriced" Ethnic and Gourmet restaurants with ...cash/credit card laden reporters..............THINK OF ALL THE NATIONAL PUBLICITY FOR TEMPE.

ASU wouldn't have to be giving out all the ..."TUITION FREE" education to those Liberal low-income or Ilegal Alien students. With Sheriff Joe providing the law enforcement around ASU...all the ........REPUBLICAN AND TEA PARTY parents across our Great Nation would be clammering to send Little Johnnie or Little Jill to........ASU.......think of all those "FAT CAT'S" edowments that ASU would be getting = BILLIONS (all tax write-offs of course but at lest the Republicans/Tea Party Activists.....have something to ...."WRITE-OFF".........[wink]

Poorman

I guess Richardson is a self appointed expert on Tempe and their problems now.

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