Carefree tightens belt in face of budget uncertainty

By Curtis Riggs | October 22, 2008

Cost controls called for after economic development conference
CAREFREE – Town officials have instituted a belt tightening for town departments and projects.

Carefree officials report sales tax has been “abnormally high” for one month since the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center on the west side of Black Mountain has been included on the tax rolls. One month sales-tax revenue was “abnormally low” Carefree Mayor Wayne Fulcher wrote recently in a letter to town staff.

“While month to month fluctuations are historically typical, we are taking action now ahead of any potential developing trends and the uncertainty of possible continued negative sales tax pressure,” he said.

Fulcher asked all Carefree Town Councilmen and staff department heads to look for ways to control costs soon after the Governor’s Conference on Rural Economic Development was held in Carefree in mid-September.

“The response was immediate and cooperative,” Fulcher said. “We have already identified potential savings in all areas of our operations including postponing capital projects, deferring non-essential maintenance and eliminating sub-contracted services.”

Carefree Town Administrator Jon Pearson said State revenue, which typically makes up one third of Carefree’s annual budget, will be monitored closely to determine how the State’s anticipated one billion dollar budget shortfall will affect Carefree.

Pearson said the town can save money as it will not need to do as many traffic studies because of the downturn in the construction market. Building official Mike Tibbett is now doing all building inspections instead of having some of them done by outside inspectors. Also, the town is suspending the placing of gravel into road medians, which will save $25,000.

The plan to put in more playground equipment in the Town Center is on hold unless someone steps forward with a large donation. This should save the town $92,000.
Even though the town spent $340,000 to upgrade the downtown Easy Street area, Pearson is touting the fact the project came in $50,000 under budget.

He said the town’s $260,000 contingency fund will be left alone in case an emergency comes up during the year.