Paradise Valley budget talks illustrate a municipality in full bloom

Operating revenues are up, expenditures are down and the municipality holds a staggering operating reserve of 104 percent, says Town of Paradise Valley officials. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The financial picture of the Town of Paradise Valley could not be any rosier as operating revenues are up, expenditures are down and the municipality holds a staggering operating reserve of 104 percent.

Paradise Valley Town Council Thursday, April 12 received an introductory overview of Town Manager Kevin Burke’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

The meeting occurred at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, meanwhile fiscal year 2018-19 begins July 1.

“Our operating revenues are up 12 percent and our total expenditures are down 10 percent,” Mr. Burke said during the study session discussion. “This is what every town manager dreams of — revenues are up and expenses are down. The purpose for tonight is understanding and identifying items that need additional information or further discussion. There is a lot of good in this.”

Mr. Burke is proposing total expenditures next fiscal year at $47,378,569 while the municipality’s General Fund, which accounts for 65 percent of the all-funds budget, is estimated to be $30,618,530.

Kevin Burke

“The challenging news is workload and you will hear it throughout tonight,” Mr. Burke said of the trappings of a bustling municipal operation. “On the table is a request for 8.7 full-time-equivalent positions.”

All major sources of municipal revenues — sales tax, bed tax, court fines, state-shared revenues and building permits — are up with residential development seeing a 187 percent surge over the last 12 months, number show.

A breakdown of major Paradise Valley revenue sources heading into fiscal year 2018-19 are:

  • Sales tax allocations are estimated at $15,513,312, which represents a 8.5 percent increase year over year;
  • Bed tax allocation are estimated at $4,274,600, which represents a 7.3 percent increase year over year;
  • Court fines are estimated to generate $1,921,120, which represents a 9 percent increase year over year;
  • State-shared revenue allocations are estimated at $4,088,820, which represents a 12.3 percent increase year over year; and
  • Building permits are estimated to generate $2,399,100, which represents a 187.3 percent increase year over year.

But as revenues continue to rise — and town officials estimate the good times will keep rolling for at least the next 24 months — municipal workload is taking a toll, they say.

The community development department is taking the brunt of the workload as, Eva Cutro, the department’s director, points out the building frenzy in Paradise Valley will peak 2007 levels — a year before the Great Recession took hold.

Also, the Paradise Valley Police Department is seeing an up-tick to its day-to-day duties as established devices to meet the standards of a 21st Century law enforcement entity need to be refreshed.

In terms of new employment, Paradise Valley department leaders seek:

  • One public safety systems analyst
  • One police dispatcher
  • Four part-time positions to help with photo radar processes
  • One alarm program coordinator
  • One municipal court clerk
  • One assistant town attorney
  • One engineering technician
  • One geographic information system technician.

    Paul Dembow

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow, an elected leader familiar with the impacts of the doldrums of the most recent recession, cautioned both department leaders and his fellow members of council to be careful when seeking more expenses during times of economic prosperity.

“I would be very careful what we are adding, because it seems we are adding a lot everywhere in the budget,” he said. “I just want us to be cautious, because when times are good is when you make your worse mistakes. And, then when you have a hiccup — like the one we had — you have to fire a bunch of people.”

The Town of Paradise Valley continues to make great strides with paying down its unfunded public safety pension liability, Mr. Burk outlines.

“We made the first of our substantial payments this year,” Mr. Burke said of a $5 million payment approved by town council earlier this fiscal year. “We are now reversing our curve. We are now 70 percent funded and 30 percent unfunded at the end of this upcoming fiscal year.”

The Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System is a 236-member organization managing the pension plans for eligible public safety personnel entities statewide.

The Arizona Constitution recognizes public employee pensions, while PSPRS and its duties were established in the late 1960s to ensure public safety employees equal footing in terms of pension eligibility, contribution rates and benefit formulas.

Numbers show Paradise Vally is carrying about $21.8 million in liability — of which 32 percent will be unfunded by the close of the current fiscal year — to support public safety pension obligations.

Pictured is members of Paradise Valley Town Council, Scott Moore, on left, Mayor Michael Collins in center and Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner to the right. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

A closer look at PVPD operations

For a number of years the Paradise Valley Police Department and its operations and service levels have been a major point of municipal scrutiny; and under the helm of Chief Peter Wingert positive improvements appear to be flourishing.

“We are showing a 7 percent decrease in Part 1 crimes,” said Mr. Wingert during the study session discussion.

“We also saw a 12 percent decrease in motor vehicle collisions, which is incredible. We are seeing a decrease in crime and a decrease in collisions, but an increase in calls for service. We have nearly a 75 percent increase in calls for service since 2014.”

Mr. Wingert explained calls for service can range from an alarm being activated to a 9-1-1 distress call.The Paradise Valley Police Department is proposing a total expenditure budget of $15,866,967 this coming fiscal year, but will house an all-funds budget of $19,895,312, numbers show.

Peter Wingert

As the local police department embarked upon a technological overhaul since the hiring of Mr. Wingert in 2016 body cameras, license plater readers and photo radar devices are approaching their useful life, town officials say.

“In patrol, body-worn cameras is the main driver,” he said of his department’s expenses heading into the new fiscal year. “Batteries are dying and even if cameras are on they are not always recording. I think we were an early adopter. If we are paying for something it should be working.”

In terms of technological needs, the police department is seeking expansion of its license plate reader program, its surveillance system and replacement of it’s first-generation body-worn cameras.

Those requests are:

  • License plate reader expansion at Tatum and Lincoln boulevards
  • Adding cameras to high-risk facilities
  • Adding video surveillance for jail-house and interview facilities
  • Expansion of video surveillance at the Town Hall parking lot
  • Body worn camera replacement
  • Two patrol vehicles
  • Two administrative vehicles

In addition to general police operations PVPD officials are responsible for the community’s legacy alarm system, which in 2017 resulted in more than 3,000 false alarm calls.

In 2017, 99.86 percent of the 3,682 security alarms the police department responded to were false, or didn’t result in the discovery of criminal activity, according to Mr. Wingert.

Moreover, only five alarms responded to were for an actual emergency. False alarms are utilizing more hours than a full-time employee, Mr. Wingert said in a March 22 presentation at Town Hall.

In February, town council approved a contract with Dynamark Monitoring to continue its legacy alarm system through the police department. Whether residents are a member of the police department’s alarm system or private services will not determine the false alarm enforcement, Mr. Wingert says.

“We are over 200 subscribers for the new program,” Mr. Wingert said of the alarm system. “At this point, I have had six people cancel.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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