Editor’s note: this story has been updated with clarifications to budget allocations for the Post Office, planned purchases for the public works department and the total budget increase year over year to Experience Scottsdale
Things are good in the Town of Paradise Valley as local leaders heard the initial public offering on the municipality’s operating budget for the coming fiscal year.
Paradise Valley Town Council Thursday, April 13 hosted a work session discussion on budget parameters for fiscal year 2017-18 where elected leaders heard reports of more revenue and new town projects in the timeline.
Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke says fiscal year 2017-18 could be a banner year for the municipality.
“The reopening of two landmark resorts in Paradise Valley along with the strengthening state economy and its related revenue sharing with the town set the tone for a positive fiscal year,” said Mr. Burke in an April 6 memo to members of town council.
Within Mr. Burke’s budget is an earmark of $52 million for the municipality’s total funds budget — a number that also includes capital improvement projects — while the town’s operation budget is pegged at $29.7 million.
“This is a 7.8 percent increase or $2.1 million,” Mr. Burke said. “The vast majority of that can be attributed to the new resorts with the balance coming from state-shared revenues.”
While the municipality can expect more dollars and cents flowing into the municipal coffer, Mr. Burke points out projections for building permits, court fees, fines and Highway User Revenue Fund remits remain flat.
Mr. Burke says his budget originally sought to provide a 10 percent reduction in the fire safety fee assessed to all homeowners within Paradise Valley town limits.
“We were definitely very disappointed to hear this,” Mr. Burke said of the Phoenix Fire Department alerting the municipality hours prior to the work session it’s fees assessed to the town will be increasing effectively sapping the proposed 10 percent discount for residents. “We believe it is a result of their own retirement problems, but these are not problems that have jumped up over night.”
However, Mr. Burke did explain to members of town council that the historically unfunded sewer fund is now sustainable and savings will begin to occur in that fund in fiscal year 2017-18.
Mr. Burke expects to have a final budget to Paradise Valley Town Council toward the end of May, he said.
“In two weeks, we will come back to you with our (capital improvement plan),” he said. “Our hope is that our budget meeting in two weeks we hear from you go ahead and button that up and bring it back for final adoption. Formal adoption could be the second meeting of May.”
At the work session discussion town council was briefed on the following budget parameters:
- Police department
- Department of administration and government affairs
- Community development
- Public works
- Municipal court
- Town attorney
- Mayor and town council
- Town manager
Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner ran the public hearing and pointed out to his fellow members of council the budget parameters are more like ceilings of project costs rather than absolute numbers.
“What we are looking at is budget allocation, but these are ceilings, right?” he said. “These numbers may come in a bit lower as we get to adopt the final budget.”
The big spenders
The Town of Paradise Valley is attacking its unfunded liability at the Public Safety Pension Retirement System and is expected to allocate a $5 million payment to that fund in the first of a three-year pay-down model.
Town leaders say the effort will save the municipality $11 million over the life of the liability through the defined contribution model at PSPRS for retired public safety employees.
“The recommended budget proposes a $6.1 million additional payment to PSPRS,” Mr. Burke said in his budget overview memo.
“Five million is shown in the police department budget and an additional million is contingent to be used once we are certain funding is available at the end of the year.”
Police Chief Peter Wingert presented department needs to the town council.
“This year we have a large increase particularly due to PSPRS,” Chief Wingert said during the work session discussion.
Aside from the major payment move proposed to PSPRS, Chief Wingert pointed out he is looking to bolster his existing ranks, improve evidence security and provide for an employment base that ensures four officers on the beat at all times in the Town of Paradise Valley.
“I am trying to give the people who work in there the ability to take a day off without having them feel like they are dumping their work on someone else,” he said of his dispatch professionals. “I want to maintain the level of service we are giving.”
Chief Wingert is requesting a new speed-tracking trailer at a projected cost of $16,000 to help his department be more responsive to resident requests of speeding concerns.
“I would just like to be more responsive to resident requests,” Chief Wingert said. “I am requesting an increase in overtime hours. We have to have four people on the road at all times.”
Other items of note included the purchase of an administrative car for the chief and the replacement of tired police cruisers.
Paradise Valley Public Works Supervisor Jerry Cooper outlined some of the major allocations expected for the Public Works Department in the coming fiscal year.
“Our overall increase is about 42 percent and the reason we are asking for that is due to the $1.7 million for the Tatum overlay,” he pointed out of the resurfacing project expected to occur next fiscal year.”
Town officials say the public works department will be looking to add a pick-up truck so the fleet remains uniform and will be purchasing new hydraulic equipment to be attached to the existing motorized backhoe already owned by the municipality.
Paradise Valley Community Development Director Eva Cutro outlined planned expenditures at her department — planning services — but also at the post office.
In total, town officials say, a technology overhaul at the post office will cost about $350,000 but will drastically improve customer service and postage pricing accuracy for both staffers and patrons.
“Everyday it shuts down completely,” she said of the current postage meters at Town Hall that has resulted in negative audits from the United States Postal Service “This is just very frustrating to our customers and to our audits.”
However, Mr. Burke says the overall budget for the Post Office will only increase about $35,000 in fiscal year 2017-18.
“The $350,000 is a change in how our expenditures are booked,” he said in an April 17 clarifying email to the Independent. ” In years past, the cost of postage did not show up on our books because the USPS (provided) the stamps and we would simply reimburse them for the postage after we sold it.”
Paradise Valley Director of Administration and Government Affairs Dawn-Marie Buckland says town efforts have made a difference at the Arizona Legislature this past and current session.
“We were very effective in conveying our interests at the Arizona Legislature,” she said noting the defeat of a photo radar bill and the pursuit of the elimination of construction sales tax allocation to cities and towns.
Ms. Buckland says the municipality is working collaboratively at the Legislature to find a “mutually agreeable solution” to construction sales tax concerns.
In addition Ms. Buckland, points out improvements to the town’s payroll system software is a priority for her department in the coming fiscal year.
“This area is really critical as payroll is near and dear to everybody,” she told the elected during the work session discussion. “With our existing system we have a lot of problems with accuracy. “One of the other trades you are seeing in fiscal year ‘18 will be moving that High Ground (lobbying) contract moved into the finance department.”
Ms. Buckland also revealed an external audit showcased the town’s need to have better controls for vendor and procurement procedures.
“The auditors have noted that we have internal control issues,” she said of procurement procedure red flags that have been risen in recent years; however, Ms. Buckland says she is dedicated to ensuring the proper controls are in place and all issues identified by the auditor have been resolved.
The Paradise Valley Information Technology Department, which is led by Robert Kornovich, is proposing a modest budget increase as it appears software licensing negotiations have gone favorably for the town.
“I spend the majority of my time on the alarm monitoring and finding solutions there,” Mr. Kornovich told members of council. “We have three full time employees. We utilize the contract dollars when it is most prudent.”
Mr. Kornovach’s department is seeking a $1.5 million budget, which represents a $100,000 increase from last year’s allocation.
Paradise Valley Municipal Court Director Jeanette Wiesenhofer is pursuing a $103,700 increase to her department’s budget — or a 15 percent increase — that is largely contingent upon the hiring of a new staff person at the local courthouse.
The Paradise Valley Municipal Court is the sixth largest municipal court in Arizona, according to Ms. Wiesenhofer.
In this current fiscal year, Ms. Wiesenhofer is projecting 51,970 case filings, which represents a 5 percent decrease in court activity compared to the same time a year earlier.
An item of debate toward the end of the budget hearing — an about three-hour discussion — was projected allocation increases to Experience Scottsdale.
“We get a pretty decent return, so I am supportive of keeping that Fiesta Bowl contract going,” Mr. Burke told council of the 4 percent increase of the total budget allocation year over year. “But because of the bed-tax revenue has gone up we are looking at $37,000 increase. The Fiesta Bowl contract is a very important contract to the hoteliers in the town.”
Mr. Burke points out Fiesta Bowl teams and subsequent broadcasters for those games must stay at both Paradise Valley and Scottsdale hotels during the sporting event, according to a contract held with the Fiesta Bowl, Experience Scottsdale and the city of Scottsdale.
The next Town of Paradise Valley budget hearing is Thursday, April 27 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.
North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or at firstname.lastname@example.org