|Protest: No new increase in taxes|
|Written by Staff Reporter|
|Wednesday, 23 July 2008 13:47|
The Cottonwood City Council meeting July 15 was rowdy and crowded as compared to many prior council meetings. A total of 76 citizens showed up to protest the 0.8-cent sales tax hike.
Old Town Mission Director Bryan Detwiler, leader of the protestors, said he believes the residents are starting to see the importance of participating in their government.
“Will [the residents] stop the next tax? Yes,” Detwiler said, “Will [the residents] hold this city accountable for responsible spending in the future? Yes. Will [the residents] hold this city government to responsible governance? Yes.”
Detwiler said the current tentative city budget for fiscal year 2008-09 shows no actual cuts in spending. Instead, the city council “bent over backwards” to lead the public to believe there was no extra funding, he said.
Detwiler respectfully disagrees.
He pointed to the fact that this year’s budget of $88.5 million is actually $10.3 million more than the $78.2 million spent the previous year.
City Manager Doug Bartosh pushed back, saying the city continues to change and grow, creating a higher demand for services. The question the city council was faced with was whether to cut services or increase revenues, he said.
The council reviewed how Cottonwood has the lowest level of taxes in Yavapai County. Council decided it was prudent to slightly increase revenues versus substantially cutting services, Bartosh said.
The Natural Resource Project is a new one, but money for the project was simply transferred out of the city’s budget for administration, Bartosh said.
The new Natural Resources Department director is a reclassification for Assistant City Manager Robert Hardy; his salary is being transferred to the newly created department.
The tentative FY2008-09 lists the Administration Department as costing the city $462,960, down from last year’s cost of $473,200.
Bartosh said Hardy was transferred out and Kyla Allen was brought in as executive assistant to the city manager. This position was approved in FY2007-08.
Another significant cost for administration is $25,000 in new computer software which comes out of the capital fund, Bartosh said. The other big increase is $18,000 for the coming elections in spring 2009.
The Natural Resource Department is budgeted $149,845 for FY2008-09, up $122,000 from last year. The largest increase is Hardy’s salary, which is $87,962. The rest of the increase is attributed to a new car for the department that will cost $22,000.
Bartosh said the reason for the new car is Hardy travels thousands of miles throughout the state representing the city on water issues. The current car has traveled 100,000 miles and has become unreliable.
He said the next fiscal year’s budget could be less than this year’s since a number of capital improvement projects will be completed.
The city council spent $25.9 million in FY2006-07, spent $78.2 million in FY2007-08 and is expected to spend $88.5 million in FY2008-09.
The jump can be explained by the the Greater Arizona Development Authority loan of $20 million the city must pay for construction of the new recreational center.
The General Fund for FY2008-09 is tentatively set at $19.6 million, an increase of $5.4 million over FY2007-08’s $14.2 million.
Bartosh said the reason for the increase is $4.4 million in reserves being transferred forward for capital projects. These capital projects include Mingus Avenue reconstruction west of Willard Street, 12th Street between Cherry Street and Mingus Avenue, and the design of the Regional Communications Center.
The city also is holding $1 million to be used in the event of an emergency. The amount is enough to keep the city running for 60 days, he said.
Out of this $19.2 million, employee pay accounts for $11.4 million.
Without the 0.8-cent sales tax hike, the city would be forced to substantially cut back services. This means the city might have been forced to close down the Parks and Recreation Department, stop funding the Cottonwood Public Library and drastically cut back on street improvements, Bartosh said.
He said the city would have also been forced to eliminate three police officers and two firefighters; significantly cut back on hours of operation for public services lilke the pool; eliminate Rhythm and Ribs festival; end support for the Senior Center; and eliminate grants and assistance to community organizations.
The Cottonwood Police Department budgeted $3.5 million for FY 2008-09. This is $400,000 less than the previous year, as the cost of designing a new Regional Communications Center is being paid for out of the capital improvements fund, Bartosh said.