02/07/2011 & 02/10/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting

HIGHLIGHTS:

GILBERT RESIDENT DISCOVERS ZINKE APPRAISALS FROM 2007/2008.

Jim Torgeson addressed the Council and provided copies of 6 appraisals completed by Marc Barlow, some of which included most of the Zinke Land Purchases. Properties were valued at $45k to $67k per acre, and yet Councilmembers Abbott, Crozier, and Presmyk approved paying $300k per acre, proving you cannot trust them with your taxpayer dollars. (Please see my previous report under the tab Zinke Land Deal.)

THE BUDGET IS BACK AND SO IS THE DEFICIT!!

Dawn Irvine, Gilbert’s new Budget Administrator, presented the General Fund projected deficit for FY 2011-2012. And “The Number” is a $6 million deficit, which is much less than anticipated. (See Note 1 below.) She said that revenues are expected to be $97.7 million, and expenses are expected to be $103.7 million.

Ms. Irvine presented the steps and timeline that will be taken to resolve the $6 million deficit. (See Note 2 below.) Council Member Daniels requested that staff place easy to find information regarding the budget process on the Town’s website so Gilbert residents can see it. (Ms. Irvine advised me that information should be posted some time this week.)

Ms. Irvine stated that the budget assumes: 1) No merit or market increases for Town staff; 2) No increases in healthcare costs, 3) No lay-offs, furloughs, or salary cuts.

NOTE 1: According to Ms. Irvine, two of the reasons for the higher than expected revenues were due to:

1) An employee recommendation (Cynthia Mathias) who suggested hiring an internal tax auditor. So far, the increased revenue has been a net $250k, and is expected to be a total net of $500k for FY2011-12.

2) The Steering Committee subcommittee of the Citizens Budget Committee recommendation that the Town move its investments into higher interest bearing accounts. The Town utilized the services of a Professional Advisor to manage the Town’s investments. The net return for the first half of FY2011 already equals the return from the entire 12 months of FY2010. It seems that previously, staff had simply let the State Fund manage investments.

Linda Abbott expressed concerns that the additional 50k population impacts police and courts, and this means higher operating costs. (Ok, but the larger population also means a larger percentage of shared revenues from the state. It also means more sales tax revenue, etc. Do I hear Ms Abbott starting her familiar drumbeat for more taxes?)

YOU WILL SEE BELOW THAT A "CITIZEN THINK TANK" IS BEING ASKED TO BRING RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL. Each Council Member selected 5 citizens. Let’s see, that’s 2 Conservatives and 5 Spenders. What are the odds that we will see 10 conservative citizens going up against 25 of the same old "usual suspects" that we always see down at the Council "dialing for dollars"?

NOTE 2: The timeline for the FY 2011-12 Budget Process

02/10/2011 “The Number” ($6 million deficit)
02/15/2011 Council Quarterly Planning Meeting
03/02/2011 Citizen Think Tank–Citizen Input re Budget
03/09/2011 “ “ “ " " " " "
03/10/2011 Budget Strategies (Discuss all Identified Options)
04/07/2011 Budget Approach (Discuss Preferred Strategy)
05/05/2011 Meet and Confer–Final MOU’s with 3 Employee Unions
05/19/2011 Preliminary Budget Adoption
06/09/2011 Final Budget Adoption

COUNCIL APPROVES MOU’s RELATED TO TAXPAYER-PAID SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS (SRO’S) IN GILBERT, HIGLEY, AND CHANDLER DISTRICT SCHOOLS.

Three MOU’s (Memoranda of Understanding) were approved by Council with Gilbert Public Schools; Higley Unified School District; and Chandler Unified School District.

Council Member Jenn Daniels asked Chief Dorn to provide her with the cost to the Town of the School Resource Officers (SRO’s) whose duty assignments are at certain schools. He stated that there was no financial impact, since the officers were on duty to the Town anyway. (What???) He explained that the sworn officers were sometimes called away from the schools for training, and for calls outside the schools. He advised that the total annual cost is $1.3 million, but he provided no breakdown of the SRO portion. He did state that about 60% of their time was spent at the schools.

Linda Abbott stated the importance of police officers on campuses, since there are some serious crimes committed. Chief Dorn said he would provide a report on those activities.

GW Note: No one disputes that there are crimes committed at schools that are the size in population of a small town. Certainly uniformed police officers are a deterrent. The issue is this: If they are so critical to the safety and welfare of school children, then why don’t the schools pay for the officers? At least share the cost. The schools seem to find money for far less important services. Why does this fall exclusively to the Town of Gilbert taxpayers? That is the point that Jenn Daniels has repeatedly made whenever this issue comes up. And of course Linda Abbott (tenured school teacher and union member) ignores this point and tries to frame Jenn as not caring about the safety and welfare of our children. Ugh!

FIRE CALLS FOR SERVICE DUE TO NEW FIREWORKS LAW.

Fire Chief Jobusch reported a total of 5 fire calls around New Years Day related to the fireworks, but no injuries. Service calls in the past haven’t been tracked relating to these types of incidents, so there is no way to know if this is an increase. He reviewed inspections of vendor sites selling fireworks and total poundage of illegal fireworks confiscated.

GW Note: Maybe the Town could use those confiscated fireworks for next year’s 4th of July celebration, instead of fire personnel dumping them in a bucket of water.

Police Chief Dorn advised an uptick over last year in police calls related to fireworks, mostly noise complaints.

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