Payson: More Cops, No Fire Marshal

Payson Police department

Payson Police department Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Payson employees in July will get their first raise in four years and the number of police officers in town will increase by five, but the just-adopted town budget otherwise looks pretty tight — including the elimination of the fire marshal’s position.

The general fund budget will jump compared to year-end spending — but remain about the same as the budget actually adopted last year.

The overall $37 million spending cap includes grants and improvement district taxes the town probably won’t actually spend.

The budget does include $225,000 for road repairs. The town is also looking at a possible grant to improve the heavily used Bonita Street.

Finance Manager Hope Cribb said the budget committee allocated as much as it could to roads since they “are starting to show their age.”

The new budget goes into effect Monday, which will mark the last day of work for Fire Marshal Bob Lockhart. Lockhart joined the fire department eight years ago, inspecting homes and businesses and conducting fire investigations, among other duties.

Last month, Mayor Kenny Evans announced he wanted to do away with the position to beef up the reserve

fund. The town would like a 5 percent reserve fund of $1.34 million, but is budgeting less than a third of that — about $400,000. The town dug into last year’s reserves, ending fiscal year 2013 with $275,000.

A $400,000 reserve would only cover three to four weeks of operating costs.

“So if something major came along, $408,000 is not a very large ending balance, but at least it is positive,” Cribb said.

Councilor Su Connell said she was happy to see an “adequate” increase in the fund.

Evans was not as thrilled.

“I have great concerns about the fact that the economy is not recovering as fast as we would like it to recover,” Evans said. “I think the only thing we can do is maybe look at key staff positions that we have and whether or not we need those staff positions in the kind of economic downturn that we have now.”

With reportedly no fat to cut elsewhere, Evans singled out Lockhart.

Cribb estimates the town will save roughly $60,000 by using contracted services for fire marshal duties.

While Lockhart is getting the boot, other employees are seeing a 3 percent pay increase on their hire date.

The town also unfroze a human resource analyst, two parks maintenance positions and added a part-time victims’ rights position to the attorney’s office. The victims’ rights position is grant funded.

The largest chunk of town revenue comes from taxes ($12 million), nearly half of that from local sales tax. As of May, local sales tax revenue is down $10,000 for the year over the same time last year, according to a town financial report.

Property tax revenue is budgeted at $653,000 after the council tentatively approved a small property tax increase. The average homeowner will pay $30 more on a $100,000 home.

In terms of expenses, personnel costs eat up the largest chunk at $12.7 million.

The town expects Workman’s Compensation costs to increase 20 percent and insurance 5 percent. Also due to an unfunded state mandate, the town must match 40 percent of police salaries to a retirement fund.

The town recently hired five new officers, increasing the police budget from $4 million last year to $4.83 million in the next fiscal year. The fire department’s budget also increased from $3 million to $3.5 million thanks to a federal grant to pay the salary of new firefighters.

Budget highlights

• $35,000 for new lights on Main Street

• $225,000 for road repairs and pavement preservation

• Town buying software to monitor Internet use

• Police are now fully staffed with five new officers

• New police vehicle from a military surplus

• Property tax bill increasing $30 on the average $100,000 home; does not consider a drop in property value

Comments

Bruce Heffner 1 year, 5 months ago

Well I see the old council is once again going after the little guy....................property owners. Why don't they figure out how to lower the saleries of the high end employees. I am sure Payson has a wide array of qualified candidates who would come out of retirement to help out at a much lower cost.

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Pat Randall 1 year, 5 months ago

Of course Evans could have cut some fat by getting rid of some assistants to assistants. Guess he is happy he has been trying to get rid of the Fire Marshall since he was elected as I understand the politics of town. If I read it right according to ASU newspaper, contracted fire inspectors aren't allowed on their building projects. Seems there are a lot of things that haven't been discussed about ASU coming here.

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Pat Randall 1 year ago

I think they decided on salaries compared to Gilbert where there are more than 150,000 people and a lot more area and work to do.

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