Payson Economy Mends, Still Lags State

Local sales tax collections rise only slightly, but other revenues recovering

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Payson continued its painfully slow recovery in January, with modest increases in almost all of the town’s revenue sources compared to a year ago, according to the town’s just-released January financial report.

However, the crucial sales tax collections for the first seven months of the fiscal year that started last July rose only about $23,000 over the same period in the previous year — to a total of $2.94 million.

Other sources of revenue did a little better.

That included a $158,000 increase to $912,000 in state-shared income taxes; a $25,000 increase to $595,000 in state-shared sales taxes; a $15,000 increase to $46,000 in plan review fees signaling a possible future rise in building; and a $61,000 gain to $656,000 in state-shared gas-tax money.

Overall, the figures suggest that Payson continues to lag behind the state overall when it comes to the recovery — with

smaller percentage increases in local taxes than in the various state-shared taxes.

Moreover, building permits have now actually dropped compared to the same period last year — after having run ahead of the previous figures for most of the year. Building permits dropped by $1,100 to $99,000.

In addition, the money coming in from car sales locally also dropped. The vehicle license tax income dropped by $30,000 to $410,000.

Despite the increase in revenues, Payson’s general fund that accounts for most town operations has so far had about $1.3 million more spent than it has taken in.

However, Finance Manager Hope Cribb in the January report said that the shortfall reflects the timing of certain payments and planned transfers from one fund to another, rather than a real deficit. She said most departments remain under budget and that she doesn’t anticipate a year-end deficit. The town’s fiscal year runs from July to June.

The town’s spread sheet shows that so far tax collections have fallen about $600,000 short of projections. Add up all of the town’s revenues, and the shortfall grows to about $1.2 million in the non-restricted general fund.

Providing water remains the town’s most expensive service, with an annual budget of about $4.7 million, which comes almost entirely from water bills. The water department operates out of its own fund, rather than the general fund that finances all the other town’s departments. In addition, the water department has a separate budget for the CC Cragin Development Fund to pay for the Blue Ridge pipeline. The CC Cragin Fund stands at $6.7 million for the year. Revenues for the regular water fund are running about $100,000 behind projections while revenues for the CC Cragin Fund are running about $2.8 million behind projections, presumably due to the lack of new construction paying the $7,500-per-unit water impact fee.

Police protection remains the second most expensive service, with a $4.3-million annual budget — about $270 per resident annually. So far, the police department remains about $400,000 under budget — which mostly reflects the savings flowing from six vacancies on the force. As a result of resignations, retirements and firings, the police department has had about 25 percent fewer officers on duty than the budget included, resulting in a substantial savings. The department is actively recruiting for more officers at present. Providing salary and benefits for six officers would cost $300,000 to $450,000, according to estimates.

Next comes the fire department, with an annual budget of $3.5 million. The fire department also remains roughly $400,000 under budget. The town recently landed a federal grant that will at least for several years pay the bulk of the salary cost involved in adding about six firefighters to staff a third fire station on the border between Payson and Star Valley. The town will have to find a way to cover those salaries when the federal grant runs out in two years.

Most other departments also remain below their adopted budgets, according to the January financial tracking report.

Community Development has an annual budget of about $700,000, but remains about $50,000 under budget so far in the current fiscal year. The department has shrunk somewhat from the building boom peak when town planners and inspectors handled about 300 new homes annually. In the past year, that number has remained closer to 50 homes.

Budget totals for other departments and the amount they’re under/over budget through January include:

Central services

(employee benefits):

$902,000 $166,000 under

Engineering/streets:

$239,000 $11,000 under

Parks and recreation:

$346,000 $56,000 under

Town council:

$118,000 $10,000 under

Town manager:

$198,000 $11,000 under

Clerk:

$256,000 $10,000 under

Elections:

$38,000 $22,000 under

Information technology:

$532,000 $41,000 over

Human resources:

$180,000 $20,000 under

Attorney:

$349,000 $18,000 under

Tourism:

$108,000 $7,000 under

Magistrate court:

$219,000 $5,000 under

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