Carefree Town Council struggles with budget

By Curtis Riggs | June 17, 2009

A work in progress
CAREFREE – At a Tuesday budget workshop town council decided to layoff one employee and make good on a pledge to contribute $16,667 to the new Desert Foothills YMCA, which will open this fall.

Town Center Gardens maintenance worker Jeanette Summers was laid off through the elimination of all Town Center Gardens funding. Maintenance will be taken over by the Carefree street department.

Summers’ layoff saved the town just over $52,000 in a year when projected revenue is $1 million short of projected expenses.

David SchwanOne key issue impacting the decision to eliminate the position is the previous town council, many who were voted out of office this spring, insisted there would be no need for layoffs this year. Another issue is many of the council members felt the decision to eliminate funding had been made last week.

“We eliminated the position, we don’t do personnel stuff,” Councilman Peter Koteas said about Mayor David Schwan’s reluctance to act on the council decision. “The rest is up to you.”

The council voted to provide Summers with a severance package consisting of one week of vacation for every year she has worked for the town. The council is also asking her to sign a “hold harmless” agreement.

Concerning the pledge to the local YMCA, which will be built alongside a satellite campus of Paradise Valley Community College, Town Clerk Betsy Wise informed the council that according to former Councilman Greg Gardner, the agreement to make the contribution was an “oral pledge” and there is no contract in place for it.

Despite this, the council unanimously agreed making the contribution, and two similar ones for the next two years, was the right thing to do.

“We made a commitment,” Koteas said.

In response to Councilman Bob Coady’s concerns that no other municipalities are contributing to the Y Councilwoman Susan Vanik pointed out many Carefree residents support the Y going in and are actively involved in establishing it. At issue in following through with this pledge is Carefree eliminated funding to other area non-profit groups this year.

Coady pointed out that Carefree and Cave Creek paid $160,000 each to put in a traffic light at 56th Street and Carefree Highway in recent years. Scottsdale did not contribute to it, despite the fact the section of Carefree Highway is within Scottsdale’s jurisdiction.

“Why do we always carry the burden of the finances?” Coady asked.

Koteas responded, “We are Carefree and we need to act the right way.”

It became apparent to Coady he was losing the battle on this vote.

“If the rest of the council says we are committed to this then I will probably be left alone,” he said.

With respect to the now vacant Eight Sundial Building, Schwan said there are three options, ranging from doing nothing to spending $125,000 to move the Carefree Municipal Court there. The least expensive option would be to move the town hall from its present location at a cost of $70,000 and move the court into the old council location.

The $12.42 per square foot rental agreement currently in place for the court creates difficulty in securing a competitive long-term lease.

Both Koteas and Coady asked why the town doesn’t just sell the building. The council did move $500,000 from its General Fund account to payoff the loan for the building.

Photo: Carefree Mayor David Schwan