Many of us have taken pay cuts, lost our jobs and seen our taxes go up, whether it's the one cent sales tax Governor Brewer passed, or the new food tax in Phoenix.
We were told it was necessary, there was nothing left to cut, but when FOX 10 started pouring through city and government budgets, we found there is still waste -- plenty of it.
We examined the money valley cities are spending on their government TV channels. Is it worth the cost? Are these government TV channels eating up valuable city money?
Flipping through the cable channels, you've probably run across your city government channel. Phoenix is channel 11.
At any given time of day, you can see the mayor speaking at events, learn about garbage pickup, or learn about fishing in city parks.
"Phoenix Channel 11 has been around since 1984. And we've been providing residents with city news and information," says station manager Deborah Sedillo Dugon.
These shows are paid for out of each city's general fund -- taxpayer money. So you'd think each city would be as frugal as possible in running these channels, but that's not so.
When you dig deep, you find out that the cable station in Phoenix has a budget of $1.1 million, and employs 11 people. This shows the disparity between different city TV stations.
In Tempe, the city's general fund pays just over $220,000 to run their station. They hire 3 employees and produce more than 400 hours of programming a year. Scottsdale spends $350,000 dollars, they hire 4 employees and produce 700 hours of programming.
But at Phoenix 11, the budget is a whopping $1.1 million. They hire the most employees: 11, and produce least programming of the three. 300 hours a year.
"It drives voter outrage and rightfully so," says Steve Voeller, President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which aims to keep government spending in check.
"Taxes have gone up or other services have been reduced so that this, for example, a cable station, can continue to operate as if everybody is flush with cash."
Every city has made cuts. Tempe realized they need their city TV station, but don't need to spend that much to run it.
"We're trying to make the most out of absolutely everything we produce and getting it out by every means that we have available to us."
The video that airs on Tempe 11 is also on the city website and YouTube. Three people do all the work -- no managers, no big manager salaries. So why does it take 11 people to run Phoenix 11?
The station manager doesn't think they have a big staff.
"We're such a small staff. We still have to go out and produce the video, we still have to produce it, we sill have to edit it to get it online. You need television personnel to do just that."
And Phoenix 11 salaries are bigger than the other stations.
"I got to tell you, nobody here at the station makes $100,000 a year, and that's including myself."
But she is making that much -- nearly. Sedillo makes $95,000 as station manager, a high-salary position not seen at most city channels.
It's not the only large salary at Phoenix 11. Eight of the 11 positions pay $69,000 or more.
Most of those positions, at other stations in town, pay about $50,000 -- $60,000 max -- not in city government.
Even the Phoenix channel's part-time editor makes more than $33 an hour -- the going rate for that same position at commercial stations in town is right around $16.
Steve Voeller finds it appalling.
"They pushed for a tax increase on food, a new tax on food, we've heard city leaders talk about, the need to cut services that they currently offer because of how bad the economy is, and it's taking a toll on their budget like libraries or senior centers, or other services that residents are used to having because there's no other place that can be cut. And then when you find out that they're spending three times what other cities are spending on a cable station that people don't even know exists, it shows that there are places that can be cut."
Voeller says every city's budget needs to be inspected for waste, so that taxpayers know their money is being spent wisely.
"The government should take the lead in making those reductions. They should lead by example. They should be the ones cutting back to the bare necessities. And I'm not sure it would be easy to justify a $1.1 million cable TV budget in this economic climate."
These city channels came about through an agreement with the cable companies decades ago. In exchange for the right of way to bury cable lines, they give each city access to one TV channel for free -- they also pay each city a percentage of their revenue.
There are no requirements that the money be spent funding city channels. That money goes into the general fund and can go to pay for anything the city deems necessary.
BIG INTERVIEW | City Councilman Sal DiCiccio was the only one who responded to our request to talk to us on-air. You'll see our live interview with him following the story (about 7 minutes in).