Paul's Note - August 2, 2019

Last week, I gave a rundown on city departments and I said that I would profile different departments over the next few weeks.

I made a bit of an error when I gave the list. I mentioned the Finance Department. It’s not called that anymore. It is now known as the Business Services Department.

The name change isn’t cosmetic. The department is a newly organized entity that took over the functions of the old Finance and Procurement departments. Human Resources has to remain separate by provisions of the charter, but they are considered under the Business Services “umbrella.”

Joyce Garland, the city’s Chief Financial Officer, is the interim director of the Business Services Department in addition to her responsibilities as an Assistant City Manager. Ana Urquijo, Administrative Services Officer, holds the designation of Human Resources Director.

Business Services Department doesn’t patrol our streets or fix our potholes, but it is critical to the internal operation of an organization the size of your Tucson city government.

The department has just under 250 employees and an operating budget of $23 million. Many of the functions of the department are dedicated to managing employees: Human Resources Operations, Benefits and Leave Management, TSRS Pension (Tucson Supplemental Retirement Services, pensions for civilian employees), and Shared Services. That last one on the list, Shared Services, are employees who work for the department in a “satellite arrangement” for departments that have employees at multiple sites, such as Police, Fire and Transportation.

Business Services also has Taxpayer Services. This is the one part of their operations that you as a non-city employee would probably see on a regular basis. They collect fees, such as for business licenses. Interestingly, because of changes in Arizona law, they do not collect our sales taxes. That is collected by the State of Arizona and distributed to the city. Taxpayer Services has specialists that make sure we are getting the proper amount from the State.

Business Services is also responsible for developing a budget, in consultation with Mayor and Council, who are responsible for approving it. This is probably the most important function. Joyce has the annual task of not only the green-eyeshade-and-ledger work of the budget, but of knowing the laws that we have to deal with in Arizona when we write that budget.

The department is also responsible for financial operations. This includes making sure that the budget we passed is implemented properly. It also includes functions like handling the city’s investments and managing paying off the city’s debt.

Lastly, the department is responsible for procurement. This was once its own department, albeit a small one, that had its operations folded into Business Services. This function covers everything from contracts for who staffs the metal detectors at city hall to who we buy busses from. Much of their operation is covered by the state’s procurement code, which is written to keep these sorts of decisions free of political interference.

The work that Business Services does has been excellent. That’s not just me saying that. They recently got a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence from the Government Finance Officers Association and the 2019 Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award. Their work, although largely invisible to most of you, makes it possible for us to deliver the services that our citizens deserve.