Sat, Feb

Cottonwood may set $111 million budget cap

Cottonwood News

Sound financial planning, accumulated reserves and an anticipated increase in some city funds means Cottonwood could afford the $111 million spending cap proposed for fiscal year 2011-12, but only if Cottonwood City Council approves.

If approved, the city would budget $50 million more than it actually spent in 2010-11. The spending cap is usually much larger than the amount the city actually spends for the year, “but without the authority, we can’t spend it,” should unanticipated grants or increased revenues appear, Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh said.

Cottonwood City Manager Doug BartoshThe proposed increase was made possible by several factors, including an increase in reserves and the planned refinancing of city debts, Bartosh said, correcting figures erroneously reported in the May 18 edition of the Cottonwood Journal Extra

The increased spending cap proposal is made possible due to frugal spending and a rollover of unspent general fund money from the 2010-11 budget, Bartosh said.

In addition, the city’s Water Fund is expected to increase to $37 million due to the anticipated refunding of the city’s 2004 and 2006 water bonds.

This year’s proposed budget also includes several rollover projects that have not yet started or will not be completed prior to the close of the current fiscal year and therefore are budgeted for FY 2011-12. Currently planned are the West Mingus Street Reconstruction project and the 12th Street reconstruction from Fir Street to State Route 89A.

“Those projects are taking longer than expected due to a lack of city staffing,” Bartosh said.

There is no additional staffing budgeted and no employment reclassifications planned for the coming fiscal year, Bartosh said.

Likewise, due to the struggling economy, there is no cost of living adjustment budgeted, but the employee merit program, which awards pay increases to employees who provide outstanding service, could be funded up to $450,000 this year should council approve, according to Bartosh

Public Safety Personnel Retirement contributions matched by the city will increase from 22 percent to 23 percent for the police department. Contributions to the Arizona State Retirement System will also increase from 9.85 percent to 10.75 percent. The increases are mandated under state law, Bartosh said.

Close to 60 percent of the expenses at Cottonwood Recreation Center were paid by increased memberships that generated more revenue than expected in FY 2010-11, a significant development considering the flagging economy, Bartosh said.

“We were expecting it to be closer to 40 percent, so of course, we’re thrilled about that,” he said.

Cottonwood Police Department continues to experience some salary compression among the different levels in the department hierarchy. Some patrol officers are earning as much as sergeants and some sergeants are earning as much as commanders. The same issue has become a concern for all departments. The city is proposing to spend $30,000 in FY 2011-12 to study the issue and recommend new salary ranges.

The local economy is still the single largest challenge the city of Cottonwood is facing, Bartosh wrote