Here are some notes after the first of the Flagstaff City Council April budget retreat. The final 2014 budget will be adopted sometime in June.
DOLLARS RE-ALLOCATED TO STREETS
Street maintenance will be increased from $1,200,000 (2013) to $3,700,000 for 2014. This is a very positive step and is being done thru re-allocation from our existing budget and revenues. As many of you are aware, I’ve been pushing hard for our streets to be fixed.
It appears that about 6.28 positions will not be filled in 2014 through attrition and I believe this is a step in the right direction. No layoffs to attain this!
One of the proposals I have made and made again today is to reduce the City workforce by 5%, about 50 employees thru ATTRITION (no pink slips) over a 2 year period. This would save millions per year plus millions in long term pension and other costs. While the proposal of 6.28 positions is quite a bit lower, I am happy with the direction and this is a good start.
According to staff, employee pay is about 19% lower vs. other cities and pay increases have been very minimal since 2008. Staff has proposed a 3.2% pay increase in 2014. One point that I brought up during the discussion was that about 300 employees have been reclassified over the past several years and have received between 5-30% pay increases due to this reclassification. Simply put, reclassification is equated to new or increased job duties and in some cases a new job title. The explanation I received was that legally, by adding job duties and workload, employees are supposed to get paid “equal pay for equal work”. So in the end it looks like staff will receive an across the board 3.2% pay increase including those that have already received pay increases through reclassification.
OTHER COST SAVINGS:
– Not picking up those piles of snow in cul-de-sacs.
– Reduction in council and staff food/catering. As you may be aware, I’ve been putting a donation jar out for staff and council to pay their own way for their meals and snacks at these meetings. Apparently the budget for 2013 has been spent for food so today a jar was put out and most people put in their share. Looks like going forward this food budget will be drastically reduced.
ISSUES I’VE ADVOCATED FOR AND LOOKS LIKE MAY HAPPEN:
– GRAFFITI ABATEMENT
I’ve been advocating for an intensified program to remove graffiti for years and it looks like action will be taken to address this problem. A half time volunteer coordinator will be added to help coordinate the removal of graffiti. We have lots of volunteers in the community and reallocating funds from the Sustainability Division towards addressing this issue is a smart move and a good move for our community.
– MAINTAIN PARKS @ HIGER LEVELS
$200,000 will be re-allocated to our parks towards improvements and maintenance. This was a decision to maintain what we’ve got at a higher quality versus adding more parks, FUTS (trails), etc. If we add more we need to maintain it, and these increased maintenance costs need to be considered. So we are trying to head this off, maintain what we’ve got at higher levels before adding new.
– THE AMOUNT YOU’LL PAY ON YOUR CITY PROPERTY TAX WILL REMAIN UNCHANGED!
As you may recall, my first day in office there was a vote to increase property taxes which I voted against. I am very glad to see that what residents pay (City portion) will at least remain flat. If you paid 1,200 last year, you’ll pay $1,200 this year, no dollar increase.
– FUEL MANAGEMENT (CITY THINNING)
$57,000 will be reallocated from the Sustainability Division to sustain our forests through an increase in thinning within the City.
OTHER RE-ALLOCATION OF SUSTAINABILITY DIVISION DOLLARS
$10,000 to fund open spaces maintenance
$12,000 for code compliance
$12,000 graffiti expense (supplies, etc)
– OTHER BUDGET SAVINGS
$200,000 a year in savings through position vacancies. Open positions will be left vacant for a minimum of 30 days before filling.
$172,000 in position savings, those 6.2 positions that will not be filled
$150,000 reduction in wild fire contingency. We’ve increased funding elsewhere plus we typically have much of this contingency remaining every year.
$428,000 in other cost savings.
COST RECOVERY FOR RECREATION
– We had a lengthy discussion about recovering 100% of the cost
SALES TAX ON WATER
– Staff proposed a tax on water of 1.721%. I voiced opposition to this and as of right now there is the support of at least 4 of my colleagues NOT to create this tax. Of course the final decision could change until the final budget is adopted in June.
NAU FIRE RECOVERY
– Staff will ask NAU if they can contribute towards the fire service the City provides to them. It is estimated that the cost for emergency calls is about $88,000 per year. By law we are required to provide this service and while NAU is not required to pay for this service it should be noted that they currently do not pay property taxes which helps pay for this service.
The second day of our budget retreat is tomorrow from 8-5 at City Hall.