Council Considers Payson's Largest Budget

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The Payson Town Council will consider Thursday approving the largest tentative budget in Payson's history.

The budget for 2000-2001 is $39,557,617, "but pieces of that are theoretical," Chief Financial Officer Glenn Smith said.

"There's $8 million included in the water fund that may never be used," he said.

"That money is plugged in as a contingency in the event that we strike water on the national forest," Town Manager Rich Underkofler said. "This would be a deal to finance the cost of a pipeline, pumping stations and storage tanks."

With that fantasy fund subtracted from the overall budget, Smith said the budget is only slightly higher than last year's $30-million budget.

The big ticket items on this year's financial sheet include the library building project and what Underkofler calls "a super big street improvement budget.

"This is probably the most money we've seen on street improvements since I've been here," he said.

The town plans to spend $5.4 million on street maintenance projects.

"That's the town's big capital improvement project for this year," Underkofler said.

The overall street budget includes:

$959,000 to rebuild McLane Road from Forest to Airport roads,

and $750,000 to improve Airport Road from McLane Road west to the airport.

About 50 percent of that project will be funded by a grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Also included in the street budget is the first stage of a program to eliminate all dirt roads within town limits. That program will begin with the paving of Doll Baby Ranch Road from the Payson Golf Course to town limits near the sanitary district.

"This project will be a joint venture with the sanitary district," Smith said. "This is a big year for street improvements."

Although town leaders plan to more than double the street budget this year, Smith said the library building project at Rumsey Park is the spotlight project this year.

"About two-thirds of the capital project fund is the library project," he said. About $2.24 million of the capital project fund's $3.096 million is pegged for the new literary center.

The budget also includes money to hire more staff members for three town departments.

"We're adding three full-time firefighter/EMTs to the Payson Fire Department," Underkofler said, "and we're adding the position of airport manager to the budget."

The airport manager position is currently a contracted position, Underkofler said. Under the new budget, the town will pay an airport manager up to $45,000 a year.

The other new addition to town staff is the hiring of a full-time grant writer, at a cost of $42,000 a year.

"We have fallen way behind in our ability to research and write grant applications," Councilmember Dick Wolfe said. "If you look at the various plans the departments have for the next 10 years, there are many projects in there that they want to be funded by grants. But (the projects get delayed) because they simply don't have the time and people to do the grant writing. It's a very time-consuming process."

The council will consider the tentative budget Thursday night, and if approved, will set the cap on expenditures. Adoption of the final budget will be conducted during a public hearing Aug. 3. For complete department-by-department details of the budget, check the legal section of the July 14 and July 21 issues of the Payson Roundup.

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