Mayor Ray Schum is passionate about the need to maintain home rule in Payson, warning of dire consequences if voters turn the option down at the polls next Tuesday.
"All nonessential services would stop," Schum said. "The library might even have to close. There would be extremely limited recreational programs for our children. Water exploration would be seriously cut. The streets would get worse. The police and fire departments would be reduced to inefficient forces. For sure, every department in town would be affected by layoffs."
The object of the mayor's admonitions is Proposition 300, a measure known as the "Home Rule Option," which asks voters whether town expenditure limits will be established "at home" by the town council or determined instead by a state formula.
If home rule is approved, the town council sets spending limits based on projected revenues and available cash reserves, according to the town's chief fiscal officer, Glenn Smith. In contrast, the state-imposed spending limit is based on the town's 1980 revenues and population adjusted for inflation and growth.
Smith projects that the state limitation for the 2002-2003 fiscal year beginning July 1 is 73.59 percent of the estimated town budget or a reduction of $7,003,847. The town's total operating budget is projected to be $26,524,487 and its operating expenses $16,444,101.
"This reduction would have to occur even if there is sufficient cash revenues and reserves to support the proposed budget," Smith said.
For Schum, it's an alternative that isn't acceptable.
"Voting 'no' on the home rule option would mean that state officials down in Phoenix would determine our needs and as such manage our affairs," the mayor said. "A 'no' vote would mean that we have lost control over our own destiny.
"Officials who we don't know, who don't live here, and chances are that we would never see, determine our needs," he said. On the other hand, "town council members are required to be residents and registered voters."
Schum also cautions voters not to believe that taxes would be reduced proportionately if home rule is rejected.
"Your income tax, property tax, vehicle license tax and sales tax would remain the same," the mayor said.
Payson voters made the town one of the first two in Arizona to adopt home rule when it approved the measure in 1980, and have extended it every four years since then.