Carefree budget workshops continue

Keen said the town’s shared revenue from income tax is down because the state is revamping its sales tax program so it can be paid online

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carefree budget workshop Carefree Town Council continues its budget workshops leading up to the May 5 council meeting when it will adopt a bottom line.  Photo by Linda Bentley

CAREFREE – The town held another budget workshop on Wednesday to review and discuss the proposed budget and ask Town Accountant Jim Keen and Town Administrator Gary Neiss questions about specific line items and changes from last year’s budget.

Neiss provided a brief overview of the budget process and said they will advertise the budget after council adopts a bottom line during the May 5 meeting.

Councilman Mike Farrar asked what the total marketing budget is including the Christmas Festival.

Neiss said it is $362,000.

Vice Mayor John Crane questioned the difference from the last workshop when the budget requested was $200,000.

Neiss said the $362,000 includes the Christmas Festival as well as salary and benefits, but stated it does not include offsetting revenues.

Farrar noted last year’s marketing budget was $176,000 and this year it’s $362,000.

Councilwoman Melissa Price asked if they could go back to the beginning and questioned if estimated sales tax is expected to go up.

Keen said even though they lost a restaurant, they gained another one.

Price questioned the real estate sign permit fees.

Farrar asked, “Why do we do it?”

Neiss said it originated due to complaints about a proliferation of signs for open houses and the town was asked to do something about it.

“That comes with a cost,” said Neiss, who stated the nominal $5 fee per sign was to offset the cost of code enforcement.

Farrar confirmed it only pertained to open house signs.

Price asked if Scottsdale or Cave Creek were doing the same thing.

Neiss said he didn’t know about Cave Creek but said Scottsdale was not.

Price said, “I’d like this to stop.”

Councilman Glenn Miller stated it probably wasn’t worth doing.

Neiss stated since it was an ordinance, it would require council action and said, “It’s not a money-making venture.”

Farrar said, “I can’t imagine a realtor wanting to leave an open house sign out after it’s over.”

Miller asked how the town was doing with the court consolidation.

Neiss stated both towns were saving about $150,000 each.

Price asked about the big jump in water company interest.

Keen said there was a principal and interest shift and the water company was paying the town what the town was paying on its WIFA loan.

However, Keen stated he had an error in the 2015 budget and would make a note to correct it.

Neiss reminded council that just because something is budgeted doesn’t mean they have to spend it.

Keen said they included additional money in the budget for special projects in the event the town receives grant money.

Neiss said there was a slight increase in HURF (Highway User Revenue Funds) funds.

Keen said the town’s shared revenue from income tax is down because the state is revamping its sales tax program so it can be paid online.

He said every city and town’s share is being reduced to pay for the project as the state gets ready for internet tax.

Price asked about the cemetery fund.

Keen said they sold one plot but had to pay back two, which skewed the budget.

Neiss stated they want to employ a grid system for their future cemetery expansion plans and said they are required to do dust abatement, which will cost a little money.

Keen said the town has around $2,000 left over in its open space development fees account, which is the last of the town’s development fees. He said it is leftover from the town’s purchase of open space.

However, because development fees may only be used for very specific purposes, Keen said he is contacting TischlerBise to find out what the town can use the money for.

Neiss said if they can use it toward signage for the open space they will be able to close out the account.

Price questioned the big jump in Public Works.

Neiss attributed it to scheduled projects.

However, he suggested only budgeting half of the town’s $60,000 for median maintenance and not doing anything until January, since the medians will be inaccessible for the most part for six months while the bike lane construction project is underway. He recommended using the other $30,000 toward landscaping the medians afterward.

Miller presented a detailed report of what it would cost to hire a fifth public works employee versus contracting out projects and said he was negotiating with a local contractor.

Council scheduled an executive session for the purpose of contract negotiations at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, preceding another budget workshop that will be open to the public at 5 p.m.

Mayor Les Peterson discussed items from the Bake Study and asked council members to decide which specific items they were interested in working on.

Peterson said he would like two council members plus either himself or Crane, and/or Neiss involved in each committee and provide anything newsworthy back to council during their monthly council meetings.

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