I spent an afternoon at town hall the end of July studying several years' budgets, in preparation for voting in the coming bonded debt election.
The good news, as I see it, is that the town government has restrained town spending to slightly more than the rise in inflation. From 1997 to 2002, spending increased from about $17.5 million to slightly over $20 million, or about 15 percent. During the same period of time, the Consumer Price Index increased about 13 percent .
However, it would appear that most of this low rate of increase was due to the fact that this was all that was available to spend. Actually, the General Fund balance declined 56 percent from $3.07 million on June 30, 1996 to $1.34 million on June 30, 2001.
More disturbing is how the money was spent. During my 20 years in Payson, I have been on at least four planning groups. All came out with reports placing water as our No. 1 priority, and streets at No. 2. These have also been the preeminent issues in the last few elections.
The reality has been something different.
Out of the $121 million the town has spent in the last six years, $1.5 million, 1.3 percent has been spent in the search for new water, and $13.2 million, or 10.9 percent, on streets.
It is not that the town has not recognized the need for additional expenditures on streets. During the same six years that $13.2 million was spent on the streets, $22.3 was budgeted (69 percent more).
Somehow, this extra money was diverted to other projects. You can look around town and imagine what they were.
The problem we now have is that we face large expenditures for water; $25 million at the least, in my opinion, with a depleted General Fund balance, and $2.4 million in the Water Enterprise Fund reserve.
Since water is the only true necessity that the town government is responsible for, my initial reaction is to recommend a vote against any debt that will use up our debt capabilities for anything other than water. Or, at least until the town takes the steps necessary to start building a meaningful water capital reserve, by sharply increasing excess water usage prices, and impact fees, to recognize the high cost of new water.
Dan Adams, Payson