04/07/2011 Town Council Meeting Highlights

There comes a moment when you need to offer your appreciation and support, and then gracefully step aside. Some Council members understand this. Some, apparently, don’t. See separate Post “The 9/11 Memorial: A Journey’

BUDGET – FY2011-12 & FUTURE.
Dawn Irvine, Budget Administrator, provided the Expense versus Revenue Report currently, and some expectations beyond.

Sales tax revenues are very slowly increasing and are higher than projected. It isn’t enough to match expenditures, but there won’t be a need to transfer money into the General Fund from the Vehicle Repair and Replacement Fund.

One major factor in the revenue problem is the decline in sales taxes collected on new home construction. (To put this in perspective, in late 2007, new single family home permits started their drastic drop from 300 per month to 50 per month. That trend has persisted for over 3 years. As a side note, the Town Council during that time– including incumbents Abbott, Crozier, and Presmyk– knew about this trend before they went on their $90 million spending spree in January and February of 2009.)

Ms. Irvine stated that employees received no salary increases last year. An increase would have reduced the General Fund by $4.2 million.

(Did you know that 67% of the General Fund is for Personnel costs? This is for employee salaries, benefits, pension contributions, etc.)

The reason Ms. Irvine gave that expenses are down is primarily due to attrition and unfilled vacancies. Most of those vacancies are in the Police Department. There are 25.5 vacant positions. Makes you wonder why, doesn’t it? Why not Fire? Development Services? Administration? Why the Police Department? What are these unfilled vacancies?

Ben Cooper was concerned about being able to meet the objectives outlined in the Strategic Initiatives. Mayor Lewis advised that there were about 120 goals, and 30 had funding requirements. Ben stated that some of the initiatives will generate revenue, and some are technology investments to help with efficiencies.

John Sentz asked when we would hear the recommendations from the Citizen Think Tank, and Ms. Irvine stated it would be soon, and that a survey was sent to each participant. He also asked how much we have in our savings accounts.

Ms. Irvine further advised she and staff have been very involved with issues relating to the Arizona State Legislature, monitoring closely with Michelle Gramley, the Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator, and with AZ League of Towns/Cities.

The Council approved engaging the law firm of Ayers and Brown to represent the Town in pending matters related to the 2009 purchase of property from Bernard Zinke.

For reference, see Parker Leavitt’s article titled, “Gilbert’s Pricey Land Deal Raises More Flags,” which appeared in the Arizona Republic’s online edition on 4/1/2011. http://www.azcentral.com/community/gilbert/articles/2011/04/01/20110401gilbert-land-deal-red-flags.html

The article begins, “E-mails released by Gilbert officials show the town structured a $50.2 million land deal to include potential tax benefits for the seller by stating that the property was being acquired under the threat of eminent domain even though it wasn’t.”