Town Gearing Up For Budget Talks

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The first public hearing on Payson's proposed budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.

No action will be taken during the special meeting, which also will include a public review of the town's corporate strategic draft, which outlines the council's priorities for the year.

The first copies of the budget, which were not available at press time, are expected to be ready by Thursday morning, Town Manager Rich Underkofler said.

Last year's budget was nearly $40 million, but included $8 million in contingency funds for pipelines, pumping stations and storage tanks in the event the town struck water in the national forest.

While the town has so far drilled only one viable well in the Tonto National Forest, Underkofler is confident those contingency funds will be utilized one day.

"We are going to get into it out there in the forest," he said, "and in the short term, I think that is going to be our best source of new water."

Big-ticket items in last year's budget included the $2 million library building, which is currently under construction at Rumsey Park and more than $5 million in street maintenance projects.

The Corporate Strategic Plan, which the council has been fine-tuning for several months, is part of a strategic planning process the town has used since 1993. This year's plan was developed from input provided by a demographic cross-section of the community that participated in the Payson 2020 Town Hall Meeting last October, and by business community members who attended a Focused Futures Plan for Economic Development meeting in November.

During a special meeting in February, the council tentatively adopted the following list of priorities for fiscal year 2001-2002, which begins July 1:

1. Water resource management and development

2. Improve collector and minor arterial streets

3. Community recreation center

4. Affordable housing

6. Main Street and Green Valley area redevelopment

7. Economic development

8. Drainage in the Main Street watershed area

9. Continue to offer a 50-percent town share for upgrading subdivision streets

10. Improve communications between council and staff

11. Improve customer service

12. Improve employee benefits

13. Improve Payson Event Center

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