Town Officials Set On Town's Budget But Not On County's

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Town officials are facing budget concerns -- not unusual for this time of year, except that the budget they're worried about is not the town's, but the county's.


The Payson Town Council quickly adopted a town budget of $30 million Thursday for 1999-2000 and went on to discuss what to do about the county's proposal to reduce funding to the County Free Library District, a move that would impact town and city libraries, but not those in outlying areas.


The discussion on how to deal with the county on proposed cuts to the County Free Library District was added to the agenda of the council's special meeting to discuss the proposed town budget for 1999-2000.


Town Council members adopted the final budget for the town, discussed the primary tax of $314,000 and secondary property taxes of $124,500 and agreed to schedule them for adoption at their next regular meeting Aug. 12.


The combined primary and secondary tax rates for 1999-2000 for the town is expected to be reduced from the previous year's tax rate, from $0.5040 to $0.4855.


But the expected revenue from property taxes is more, nearly $31,500, due to increased property values.


Council members said they had worked hard to meet all the demands of the town with the revenues they had, and they expected the county to do the same.


But the county is hurting and seeking solutions to a loss of revenues from the mining industry.They first turned to the towns and cities around the county seeking payment for county health services. When they failed to get the response they sought, they turned to a proposal to reduce County Free Library District taxes in order to raise taxes in the general fund.


Payson Town Council member Ken Murphy told other council members Thursday that he knows he was "fairly passionate" at a meeting with the county in Globe Tuesday.


"But that was a reaction to how they dealt with the health care thing," he said. "I kind of got painted as somebody who didn't want to negotiate."


On Monday, town officials will be going to Globe to meet with the Gila County Supervisors, and they had to come up with what Mayor Vern Stiffler called "a position."


Stiffler said he was not yet ready to dissolve the county library district in Payson, as Murphy had proposed at the meeting in Globe.


"I hate to throw the baby out with the bath water," Stiffler said. "How can we frame this? How can we say this is our position? We need to say, 'Follow the law -- fund the library the way it was intended to be funded.'"


Will negotiate with county
The council voted 6-0 to approve Murphy's motion to have the council negotiate with the county board of supervisors "in any way, shape or form that we can, to share services, enhance service or whatever, to assist them in solving their budget woes in a timely manner and probably in next year's budget." The motion also calls for the county to adhere to the letter of the law regarding funding for the County Free Library District.


Council member Jim Spencer was absent.

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