04/20/2010 Town Council Meeting Summary

The oath of office was administered by Mayor Lewis to Conservative leader Eddie Cook, who is now a member of the Town of Gilbert Water Resources Municipal Property Corporation. As an aside, it is important for all of us to incorporate civic duty into our daily lives. We must never be too busy, even if all we do is stay informed. Max Shoura was also administered the oath of office for the Planning Commission.
A proclamation was read declaring April 2010 as Fair Housing Month. This was presented to Carl Morgan. Carl is a Town employee, who routinely requests approval from the Council members for various taxpayer funded grants that benefit low-income residents. He manages a wide variety of welfare-type programs. These grants are frequently from the federal government, or the county and “pass through” the Gilbert budget. Thus, taxes for these programs are not collected by Gilbert. Rather, the federal government collects the taxes and then designs the rules to which the municipalities must adhere, in order to obtain the grant. The municipality then awards the grant to grant seekers, usually nonprofits, who provide assistance to individuals in need. Basically, the federal government takes your $1, and by the time that $1 gets to the recipient, it’s worth about $.50 or less.
A proclamation was read declaring April 24, 2010 Gilbert Arbor Day.
ASU graduate students gave a 30-minute presentation on a Mixed-Use Development model that could be incorporated in Gilbert. The students chose Gilbert as a course project. The idea is that you designate an area that offers amenities within walking distance, and build specially designed homes with an in-home office floor, retail stores that are positioned with homes on floors above them, low traffic, lots of sidewalk space, green areas, some industry, etc. Walking within these areas is encouraged. Traffic is higher outside of the Mixed-Use complex. Mixed-Use designs reduce urban sprawl. The models that were shown of towns in different parts of the country are attractiive. However, one Council member indicated that he had heard about people who lived above an Italian restaurant getting tired of smelling pizza all the time, and another who lived above a bakery waking up wanting to eat pastries. Still, they are interesting designs, and some people will be attracted to them.
Five citizens spoke out regarding Prop 406. Three spoke against the tax increase; two spoke in favor of it.
*Victor Petersen, a local business man, gave a carefully researched, compelling report showing that, according to the Town’s own budget vs actual numbers, the year to date actual surplus in the General Fund stands at $7,119,010. The Town had predicted it would be $4,162,840. Victor went on to report Budget versus Actual over the last 14 years. In every case, the forecasted huge deficits, very similar to next fiscal year’s projected deficit, never materialized. Most of those years turned out to provide a significant SURPLUS. Even in years where there was a deficit, it was about 8.5 times lower than projected. Victor’s argument was that the next few years of projected deficits are no different than historical predictions. The deficits simply, on average, do not occur. NOTE: After Victor left the meeting, during the Budget presentation made by Marc Skocypec, Linda Abbott was concerned about Victor’s presentation, and Marc then made reference to Victor’s numbers. Marc could not dispute Victor’s numbers, because they were accurate. He intimated, however, that “the flaw in Victor’s argument,” was the expenses in the next 3 months of the fiscal year will probably shrink the surplus significantly. Jenn Daniels confirmed with Marc that it was indeed clear that no matter what, the budget was $3 million in the black. Marc made a comment 2-3 times during his budget presentation that he “could not explain” why the General Fund revenues were higher than expected. It is also significant that no one from the Council or Staff made reference to Victor’s historical data. That data prove that there is a pattern of gloomy predictions of significant deficits, which simply DO NOT OCCUR.
William Cleveland, a local attorney, questioned how the Town could designate the ¼ cent tax increase to Public Safety, when some of the Town’s development agreements specify a defined portion be rebated to various developers, including the San Tan Automall and Berge Motors among others.
(Later, Marc Skocypec produced the development agreements which indicated that the tax funds were either “unrestricted” or set at 1.5%.)
Paul Varda, a local dentist, advised that dentistry is supposed to be recession-proof, but his business is down 25%. More people are uninsured, or are on AHCCCS, or they are putting off needed dental work. His patients have lost their jobs and homes. He emphasized that he must live within his means, and the Town needs to do the same.
Elizabeth Cress Sweet, Chairperson for the Gilbert Community Services Committee, spoke in favor of the tax increase, calling it a fair tax to everyone. She stated that nobody likes taxes, but we will lose our quality of life without it. (Ms. Cress Sweet chairs a committee that routinely requests the Council to approve spending taxpayer dollars for various charitable organizations. A Conservative accepts personal responsibility for assisting others. We do not feel it is the place of government to use tax dollars for this purpose.)
Johnna Switzer, a volunteer in the Fire Dept., spoke in favor of the tax increase, stating that the Town keeps growing and a tax is needed. She stated the tax will indeed be designated for public safety. (The Conservative would put Public Safety ahead of all other services. There shouldn’t be a need to “designate a specific portion” of our sales tax dollars for this purpose. FIRST dollars should go to Public Safety.)
CONSENT CALENDAR. The Council approved, in one motion, to approve several Intergovernmental Agreements, Project Agreements, Contracts, and an Extension of Premises approval. I noticed that one of these was to Jani-King of Phoenix for $57,514.69 for custodial maintenance services in park restrooms for FY2010-2011. Another was to approve a reallocation of $50k to Gilbert Emergency and Minor Home Repair and to approve a change order with Community Services of Arizona to provide $50k in additional funding for Contract no. 2010-2105-0045, FY 2009-10 Emergency and Minor Home Repair Contract. All of the items on the Consent Calendar passed.
PUBLIC HEARING. There was only one item: COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT FUNDS. This discussion took over an hour as the Council went through one grant after another. All but one of these passed as Carl Morgan presented them. They included grants to Community Services of Arizona and to Affordable Rental Movement of Save the Family. It was difficult to keep track of the items since the contracts were not provided to the public. However, $776,867 was awarded. Another $600k was awarded. Most of these items were for affordable housing and home repairs to lower income families. One did not pass, which was to Newtown Community Development Corporation. This may be the first time that Linda Abbott and I have agreed on anything. She stated, “It is not the taxpayer’s job to provide someone with a home.” (Most of the items that passed fall into the category of individual responsibility, not government responsibility. It is sad to see how much government has stepped in take over these social issues.)
Mr. Dan Henderson, Business Development Manager, discussed a new grant program: Human Capital Workforce. This involves the use of taxpayer dollars, via an $80k block grant, to “partner with” industry, technical colleges, etc, to bring industry and jobs to Gilbert. That is the purpose for spending taxpayer dollars to assist in certifying job applicants so they are prepared to enter a specific industry.
ADMINISTRATION. Marc Skocypec presented the Budget versus Actual Year to Date figures. As mentioned previously, overall expenses are down, revenues are up. This is virtually in all areas, including the General Fund. Marc had no explanation for the higher than projected revenues. He also noted that the SDF’s (System Development Fees) were up by about $10 million. Linda Abbott pointed out that this extra work was being done by the same number of staff. She pointed this out 3 more times. I have to comment here that, while there may be extra work, it doesn’t necessarily follow that additional staff is required yet. In businesses throughout Gilbert, these kinds of pressures often result in more efficiency. Likewise, in the private sector, the downturn in the economy has forced us to be more efficient. The public sector should be expected to do the same. It is an opportunity. Also, as more people move to Gilbert, they are generating more tax revenue. It would follow, then, that at some point, when the supply of staff cannot meet the demand, more staff, especially Public Safety, would be hired.
Interim Town Manager Collin Dewitt presented the status to date of the Budget Cuts that had been approved by the Council, including $5,700,172. This included $371,378 in renegotiated contracts. Collin noted that there was an additional $1 million from the Health Trust that will be added as well. There are recommendations that are currently deferred to IBB. These are reductions to salaries, tuition reimbursement, and costs to the Town for the medical plan, plus possible furloughs. He also advised that he and Staff had met with members of the Steering Committee including Jeff Niland, Jared Taylor, and William Scalzo. He made reference to some “long term recommendations.” There will be more discussion on these issues at the May 1 Special Council meeting.
The Council spent quite a long time fine-tuning the process for filling the Council vacancy.