Last Call For Payson Budget At Tuesday’S Meeting

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Payson will adopt a house of mirrors budget on Tuesday at a 5:30 p.m. special meeting with odd budget rules creating the kind of weird distortion that makes a scrawny fellow with protruding bones look like a plump giant.

On paper, the proposed budget will more than double — soaring from the $23.7 million spent this year to a projected total for fiscal 2009-10 of $53.3 million.

The bulk of the increase in spending in the adopted budget will come in the form of stimulus grants the town will receive and grants just penciled in on the council’s wish list.

But when it comes to the town’s general fund, which finances most day-to-day operations, the proposed budget totals $13.3 million — a roughly 5 percent increase.

General fund spending would actually have declined, except for some $1 million in transfers and loans from the water department.

Moreover, despite months of agonizing and study sessions, the budget remains part hope and half prayer. The town still doesn’t know whether Gov. Jan Brewer will win her mud-wrestle with the state legislature to protect funding for cities and towns. If she loses that fight, the town could face huge additional cuts.

The budget also assumes the council will increase the town’s property tax levy to the statutory maximum — which would add about $5 to the property tax bill for a $200,000 home. The council will hold a public hearing on that proposal on July 23. Several council members have said they would not support the property tax increase if most of the people who show up at the hearing oppose it.

That property tax increase would raise about $70,000 in extra income — roughly enough money to restore the controversial $50,000 cut from the Humane Society contract and come up with matching funds needed to attract a $300,000 federal grant to upgrade a stretch of Main Street — two of the most contentious cuts in previous budget drafts.

The proposed budget would essentially hold to the spending limits imposed last December, when the council canceled almost all capital improvements and most street maintenance, while laying off six full-time workers and all part-time workers. Those actions helped cut the budget for the current fiscal year from the $34 million adopted at the start of the year to the $23.7 million in actual spending.

The budget assumes that sales tax revenues will remain about the same as this year — roughly $6 million. Town officials hope that a perplexing and unexpected drop in sales tax receipts in April doesn’t continue.

The budget also assumes a $30,000 increase in recreation fees to about $164,000, a $300,000 decline in state shared revenue to $3.7 million, and stable levels for most other major revenue sources. Overall, the town anticipates bringing in roughly $300,000 less than last year.

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