Payson’s anemic recovery continues to lag behind the rest of the state, which helps explain why the town has so far this year spent $1.1 million more than it has collected in revenues.
However, the town still projects a wafer-thin $121,997 positive balance in its general fund by the end of the fiscal year in June, thanks to reserves and transfers from various funds.
Lackluster local sales tax revenue remains perhaps the most frustrating single figure in the town’s April financial status report. Sales tax collections declined $65,000 from the same July-April period the year before to a total of $4.2 million. Local sales tax figures have remained depressed compared to the previous year ever since November.
Sales in most categories have declined, including utilities, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade restaurants and bars. A few categories have held their own or increased slightly, including real estate, arts and entertainment, finance and hotels.
Other figures that track the local economy showed a similar weakness. For instance, vehicle license tax collections from local car sales declined $37,000 to $612,000.
Building permits dropped $2,959 to $126,473, after having risen sharply in the first half of the fiscal year.
The only bright note on the local front lay in a $21,000 increase to $65,000 in the plan review fees the town collected, which indicates projects have at least entered the development pipeline.
By contrast, revenues connected to statewide activity have almost all perked up.
For instance, state-shared income tax based on population rose $226,000 to $1.3 million.
Moreover, state sales tax collected statewide and doled out on a population basis rose $40,000 to $921,000 — an indication that sales elsewhere have improved steadily.
State-shared gas taxes from the Highway Users Revenue Fund (HURF) also rose, up $81,000 to $973,000. The steady increase in that category may finally provide some money for the town to repair deteriorating streets and maybe even return to the routine maintenance program the town has suspended for some four years now. A surface coat every seven years can significantly extend a street’s useful life.
The water department remains the town’s biggest single expense. The water department has an adopted budget of $4.7 million, but that includes various optional reserves and capital improvement projects. That works out to about $313 per resident. The water department’s overall operating fund has collected about $3.7 million so far, compared to projections of $3.9 million.
By way of comparison, the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District recently adopted a $2.9 million budget, which works out to about $967 per resident.
In addition, the Payson Water Department maintains a $7 million CC Cragin Development Fund, financed with impact fees and federal grants and loans. The pipeline fund so far in the current fiscal year has only collected $2.4 million, compared to projections of $5.8 million. The town started construction on the roughly $34 million CC Cragin pipeline this year, with delivery of the first water expected in 2014 or 2015. The pipeline will double the town’s long-term water supply at a cost of about $2,266 per resident.
Only the broad range of town departments that remain significantly under budget has prevented the low tax collections from triggering a financial meltdown.
For instance, the Payson Police Department has an adopted budget of about $4.3 million annually. However, at this point in the fiscal year the department remains $600,000 under budget — thanks to a large number of vacancies the town is now scrambling to fill. The adopted budget works out to about $287 per resident.
The fire department also remains about $500,000 under its $3.5 million budget. That works out to about $2,333 per resident. The fire department landed a federal grant to add six firefighters to the force to operate the truck based in the new, third fire station. That grant will expire in several more years. In the meantime, the town has proposed eliminating the fire marshal’s position and the core of reserve firefighters to bolster financial reserves in the upcoming fiscal year.
Overall, for the month of April, the town’s general fund departments remained about 20 percent under budget. For the fiscal year to date, the departments in the general fund have spent about 14 percent less than the budget adopted by the town council last June. That works out to about $1.5 million in savings so far, which has made all the difference in withstanding tax collections far lower than the hopeful projections adopted last June.