The Nogales City Council unanimously approved a budget for fiscal year 2020 on Tuesday after no one spoke against the proposed spending plan at a public hearing.
Only three people made comments during the Tuesday hearing, and all were representatives of the public library who thanked the council for continuing to fund that institution.
While the city’s total budgeted spending for fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020) will rise to $62.5 million, an increase of 12.5 percent over 2019, the 2020 budget also includes controversial cuts. Those include axing $50,000 payments that had been made to the local port authority and chamber of commerce in recent years, as well as freezing several unfilled positions at the city, including at the police and fire departments.
Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Arturo Garino said that “there might have been some things that we did that are not comfortable… but that’s why we get elected. To make those decisions and to do the best we can do for the community.”
At the Nogales Visitor Center, which is operated by the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, one anticipated effect of the cuts has not materialized.
Chamber President and CEO Olivia Ainza-Kramer told the NI in June that, after the city cut funding to the chamber, the organization would have to permanently close a public welcome center at the beginning of July and lay off Maggie Gallego, who had greeted visitors to the center. But on Wednesday, Ainza-Kramer said that Gallego was still greeting tourists as the chamber looks for other funding sources to keep the center open.
Councilman Marcelino Varona, Jr., who attempted to make several 11th-hour modifications before the council approved a tentative budget in June, praised his colleagues at the city for their work on the plan.
“This is my third year on the council and it’s been the most transparent that I have seen it,” he said.