Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar

Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar, after helping pass the city’s budget, went back to advocating for more COVID-19 tests for Tolleson and its neighboring cities.

On June 23, Mayor Anna Tovar and the Tolleson City Council unanimously approved adopting the 2020-21 budget that begins July 1.

The $89 million budget is a 15% increase over the 2019-20 budget of $77 million.

At $36 million, the general fund is the largest part of the city’s budget. Another $16 million if for the Capital Projects Fund.

The city anticipates $22 million in sales tax in the coming year, a 10% increase over 2019-20’s $20 million in sales tax revenue.

As is the case with most cities, the biggest expense in Tolleson is public safety. The city is budgeting about $5.6 million for its police department and $4.7 million for its fire department.

Tolleson has 217 full-time employees.

Tovar was asked about the 15% budget increase.

“The upcoming fiscal year 2020-2021 budget includes the cost of a brand-new City Hall complex that includes a contemporary library, senior center and council chambers to replace the existing complex, which was opened in 1967,” she said.

“In addition, if the voters approve the new Aquatics Center and Park Improvements bond in November, there is a $5 million dollar authority in the budget to begin construction.”

Tovar added that the Water Fund has additional budget authority of approximately $2  million dollars for a land purchase. 

And, she said, “The city of Tolleson is proud to continue to support the Tolleson Elementary School District preschool program, for we believe that early childhood education is the cornerstone of long-term academic success, which begets a qualified workforce.”

When Gov. Doug Ducey gave cities the power to create and enforce mask policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tovar rushed into action—Tolleson was one of the first cities in the Valley with a proclamation requiring masks in public.

“We are experiencing universal support for the mask proclamation,” she said.

The ZIP code 85383 shows one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Valley, with 912 positive cases as of June 26.

“The Tolleson ZIP code of 85353 does not include the city of Tolleson alone. It is comprised of the cities of Phoenix, Avondale and Maricopa County, so to report that all of those cases are in Tolleson proper is not accurate,” Tovar said.

“COVID-19 does not observe municipal borders or ZIP codes.”

Indeed, Tolleson’s neighboring ZIP codes in Maryvale and West Phoenix showed over 1,000 cases. Avondale to the west of Tolleson was significantly lower but still over 600 positive cases.

“Cities are left to their own devices to combat spread, which is why I consult with my fellow mayors constantly to identify best practices and ensure a uniform response to the fullest extent possible,” Tovar said.

At a testing site in Maryvale, people waited for hours June 21 for COVID-19 tests. Tovar pushed to get testing available for employees of the JBS meat plant in Tolleson.

More tests are needed, she insists. 

“Mass testing sites are lacking in Southwest Valley suburbs. I implore the Arizona Department of Health Services and Gov. Ducey to coordinate future free testing blitz locations in West Valley communities,” Tovar said.

“Testing events where hundreds waited up to 13 hours to get tested in Maryvale should never have happened. Our West Valley residents are worthy of better access to free testing.”

She said she and other leaders helped bring five COVID-19 test events to Tolleson, “with over 1,000 tests administered in our city. We are working to secure future dates for more testing because our community deserves access to free and convenient testing.”