Town To Consider $39.8 Million Budget

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The Payson Town Council will vote on a tentative budget of nearly $40 million -- 14.8 percent larger than last year's budget -- during its regular meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at town hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway

The proposed budget for the 2005-2006 fiscal year is $39,810,291, an increase of $5,140,100 over the 2004-2005 budget. It includes $1.4 million in market salary adjustments for town employees implemented in two stages -- in December, 2004 and July 1, 2005.

The market salary adjustment was the most contentious budget issue, according to Glenn Smith, chief financial officer for the town. Four councilors favored the increase, with councilors Robert Henley and Tim Fruth leading a vocal minority that felt the market study used to determine the increases was skewed in favor of bigger raises.

The proposed budget also includes a 2.3 percent cost of living increase for all employees. A resolution adopting the cost of living adjustment is also on the agenda Thursday.

Other budget highlights include major capital outlays of $450,000 for "pavement preservation," $1.1 million for the McLane Road improvement project, $1.8 million for the Airport Road improvement project, and $1.2 million for the Westerly Road improvement project. Also included is $500,000 to remodel the Main Street fire station and $700,000 for Rumsey Park ball field development.

The budget also includes money to add two employees each to the fire and water departments. A full-time accountant and information services technician will also be added to the town payroll.

Smith says a tax increase will not be necessary.

"(There will be) no increase in the sales tax rate with a ‘conservative' projected increase in sales tax revenues showing a slow recovery," Smith said. "A slight decrease in the property tax levy is in the current budget proposal."

The town's total property valuation is $170,159,572.

The final budget will be adopted in August, followed by the tax levy.

"Once you adopt a tentative budget, you can only move things around or reduce them," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "You can't raise expenditures."

Diamond Star information letter

The council also will consider the text of an open letter to the residents of Gila County drafted by Town Attorney Sam Streichman explaining why the town believes the Diamond Star Water Coalition's incorporation drive is illegal. The decision to inform the people of the town's position was made following an executive session June 23.

A group of residents from Diamond Point Shadows and Star Valley formed the nonprofit coalition to try and stop G. Michael Horton and other developers from piping water to the town of Payson from their communities. When the town did not respond to an initial petition, the coalition decided to proceed with the incorporation process.

Streichman argues that the Gila County Board of Supervisors has no jurisdiction because the town did not approve the proposed incorporation and the petition presented to the town by the coalition was not "proper and legal."

Diamond Star Water Coalition President Bill Rappaport said the incorporation process will proceed despite the town's protestations.

"Our lawyers tell us what they're going to do on Thursday is meaningless," Rappaport said. "It has no effect on anything that we're doing.

Mayoral term

The council also will consider a resolution that would allow the voters to decide if the mayor's term of office should be extended from two years to four years. As an alternative, Streichman says the council can vote to select the mayor from among its members.

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