Layoffs averted — cost of town’s operations remains little changed and slew of police department vacancies
The Payson Town Council on Tuesday adopted a budget that avoids threatened layoffs and boosts town spending significantly — mostly as a result of the start of construction of the $34 million Blue Ridge pipeline. Town spending will most likely increase to about $14 million, a hefty a 60 percent jump from this year’s projected year-end total of $8.7 million. However, a $4 million increase in spending on the pipeline accounts for the vast majority of the projected increase. That money comes from federal grants and loans and saved-up impact fees.
Numbers reflect 12 percent jump in local sales tax revenues
Sales in Payson so far this year have risen a heartening 12 percent, according to the town’s financial tracking report for April. Moreover, the value of building permits issued rose a whopping 31 percent to $128,000, according to the report. The report showed signs of life in the local economy heading into the vital summer months, when tourism lifts economic activity — although local officials are already fretting about the economic impact of a possible forest closure due to extreme fire danger. The rise in local sales tax, vehicle license taxes, building permits, planning fees and other purely local sources of revenue would make town budget planners downright cheerful were it not for the deep cuts in most sources of revenue from the state.
Town officials cancel layoffs as estimates of revenue rise by $600,000
Payson officials ransacked their budget projections for spare change and windfalls and came up with an estimated $600,000 in added revenue — enough to avert threatened layoffs and probably even restore full funding to the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. A rise in projected state revenue sharing, a projected increase in taxes on utilities and other sources of money prompted the Payson Town Council to cancel a meeting last week it had called to set the layoff process in motion. “We went line by line by line by line,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans. “There’s not a rock left we haven’t turned over four times.”
Already battered counties and towns this week heaved a cautious sigh of relief with the adoption of a state budget that left fresh bruises — but didn’t actually throttle them. “When all was said and done, we were able to hold to no additional cost shifts to counties,” said Gila County District One Supervisor Tommie Martin. However, the $8.6 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts in June left in place some expensive financial shifts from this year — including the loss of gas tax money, a requirement that counties pay for insane prisoners held in the state mental hospital, a cut in funding for school resource officers on school campuses. The Town of Payson also found some muffled measure of relief in scrutinizing the details of the compromise budget plan reached in negotiations between Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican legislative leaders.
State sweeps prompt Payson to consider layoffs
The Payson council held an emotional, emergency budget session on Tuesday to grapple with a projected $721,000 deficit for the fiscal year that starts in July. Continued raids on local funds by the state Legislature and rising employee benefit costs could force a fresh round of layoffs and a reduction in many programs. That would include slashing town payments to the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce from $36,000 to just $11,000. The plan also calls for the cancellation of almost all capital improvements and big increases in employee costs for health care. The renewed budget crisis also means the town can’t fill five patrol officer vacancies or end its reliance on two-man crews on fire trucks on many shifts. The possibility of three fresh layoffs at one point left Town Manager Debra Galbraith choking back tears, as the town headed into a fourth year of cutbacks.
Town council clears way to consider removing 18-unit-per-acre cap in multi-family zones
Developers can build smaller houses packed in tighter — so long as it still looks pretty from the street. That’s the gist of a proposed change in the zoning rules for apartments the Payson Town Council is considering. But don’t worry: The repeated public hearings necessary to change the town’s general plan and zoning ordinance won’t take place for months.
Payson also earmarks $121,000 from Community Development funds to help hard-pressed residents repair homes
The Payson Town Council last week agreed to give the Payson Senior Center $87,000 in federal funds to repair and upgrade its facilities and set aside another $121,000 in federal dollars to help low-income homeowners repair homes in blighted neighborhoods. Housing Coordinator Bethany Beck said that unfortunately, the complex rules attached to the Community Development Block Grant program limited the number of partners the town could have — which essentially barred a plea for help from Payson Area Habitat for Humanity.
Once more into the breech, dear friends. Last week the Payson Town Council might not have had King Henry V or Shakespeare to get them riled up: But they did vote to charge into the heart of a once-and-future controversy — its sign ordinance. Payson’s effort to impose a restrained, resort-town standard on signs several years ago spurred repeated debates and bitter complaints by local merchants.
Major crimes drop 2 percent as Payson struggles to fill five vacant slots for patrol officers
Major crimes in Payson dropped along with the number of officers on the beat in 2011. The per-capita major crimes index reported to the FBI dropped 2 percent and calls to dispatchers plunged nearly 30 percent in 2011, according to a report released March 16. “We returned to the trend of declining crime after a spike last year (2010),” said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.
Police posed to quickly enforce ‘emergency’ ordinance adopted by Payson council
The Payson Police Department will move immediately to block the sale of “spice” and other synthetic drugs in accordance with an emergency ordinance adopted Thursday night by the town council, said Police Chief Don Engler. Engler asked the town council to include an emergency clause in the adoption of an ordinance banning the sale of “intentionally misused” products, so he would not have to wait the normal 30 days before moving to enforce the new law.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans joined mayors from around Arizona last week at the state Capitol to urge the Legislature to let cities and towns lead the way on job creation and not to preempt those efforts with legislation that erodes local control. Evans said the Legislature has made strides to create jobs, but then hurts local efforts with excessive micromanaging of cities.
The Payson Town Council wants to investigate the possibility of building a gazebo for weddings and other special events in Green Valley Park — despite the misgivings of Payson Mayor Kenny Evans. Counselors Su Connell and Fred Carpenter supported the idea, in the hopes that an additional gazebo people could reserve would foster the use of the park for special events and ceremonies, which would boost the town’s struggling tourist economy.
The Payson Town Council has taken the first step toward adopting a cutting edge law that attempts to bar the sale of designer drugs by focusing on whether the store selling those substances ought to know people will take them to get high. The new law represents an attempt to cope with mixes of compounds sold as “bath salts” or “potpourri” which include things like synthetic imitations of the active ingredient in marijuana that bundlers can readily change to evade bans based on their components.
Discount card offers average savings to residents of 23%
Payson today launched a program to help provide residents with some relief from the high cost of prescription medications. Through the program — sponsored by the National League of Cities (NLC) — the town is making free prescription discount cards available to city residents. The discount cards offer town residents an average of 23 percent savings off the retail price of prescription medications. The NLC Prescription Discount Card can be used by all residents of the town of Payson and has no restrictions based on a resident’s age, income level, or existing health coverage. The card can be used at various participating pharmacies around the town, as well as at more than 60,000 participating retail pharmacies across the country.
Question: What’s worse than spending $35,000 on an election without any contested seats? Answer: Doing it twice. That’s the fear behind Payson Town Clerk Silvia Smith’s appeal to voters to fill out and return their ballots for the town council elections — even though no one filed to run against the incumbents in Payson. The same concerns hold true in Star Valley, where no one filed to oppose Mayor Bill Rappaport or council members George Binney, Gary Coon or Paty Henderson. The ballots went out this week for the vote-by-mail town election, with Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, Councilor Michael Hughes, Councilor Richard Croy and Councilor John Wilson all up for re-election. Sounds simple enough: No opponent, slam dunk.