Council To Give $31 Million Budget A Second Glance

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The Payson Town Council will take a second look at the proposed fiscal 2001-2002 budget at 6 p.m. Thursday in a special meeting at Town Hall.

The proposed budget, at just over $31 million, is smaller than the current budget by about $700,000. A reduced rate of growth in sales tax revenues a reflection of a slowing economy is the primary culprit.

While the budget will not actually be approved until a special council meeting scheduled for Aug. 2, the next fiscal year begins July 1. The council got its first look at the proposed budget last Thursday, and a third budget meeting is scheduled for June 21.

According to Town Manager Rich Underkofler, the council will tentatively approve the budget at one of two regular meetings in July. "Once we have tentative approval, the budget has to run in the newspaper for two weeks, and then the council will adopt the final budget ... in August," he said.

Also up for review Thursday evening is the latest draft of the corporate strategic plan, which works in conjunction with the budget by establishing council priorities and initiatives. Work began on the strategic plan which reflects input by Payson 2020 Town Hall participants and the business community back in January, and the council has already made several revisions to the list of priorities it contains.

Vice Mayor Dick Wolfe said he approves the strategic plan as presented at last Thursday's initial budget meeting, but with the smaller projected budget is concerned about how much money can be allocated to the priorities it specifies. A budget that is less than the previous year's is a step backward, Wolfe said.

"A healthy town needs to grow, and revenue needs to grow to meet our needs. That's why I have been and will continue to push for economic development," the vice mayor said.

While the budget for the current fiscal year is nearly $40 million, it includes an $8 million contingency water fund that Underkofler and Chief Fiscal Officer Glenn Smith opted not to include in the current budget proposal. That money was earmarked for pipelines, pumping stations and storage tanks in the event the town struck water in the national forest.

Water resource management and development remains the number one priority council initiative in the corporate strategic plan that accompanies the current budget proposal. But Underkofler said the contingency fund for national forest water development was dropped because such a project was not on the immediate horizon and voters would have to approve an authorization for it anyway.

The town manager did say the council will soon be asked to approve a 15 percent across-the-board water increase for all customers who use over 5,000 gallons, a proposal that reflects a new water strategy by the town. With the town's current conservation program fairly ineffective, the increase the first for customers using 10,000 gallons or less a month is an attempt to "get a nest egg together to pay for" new water development projects, according to Underkofler.

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