06/08/2010 Town Council Meeting Summary

Tonight the Council balanced the FY2010-11 budget on a preliminary basis, to be finalized on June 22, 2010. As you will see later in the Summary, the Council is relying on funds they are shifting from reserves to meet the anticipated deficit. Over the last several months, the Council has followed some of the recommendations of the Citizens Budget Committee and Employees. They have made some cuts in spending. However, there are places that can still be cut. The Council has chosen to not do that.
Eddie Cook noted that on March 2, 2010, a discussion of moving elections to the Fall of even years (at a significant money savings to Gilbert taxpayers) or to odd years, was scheduled for tonight’s meeting. Yet, it did not appear on the agenda. He asked that it be considered for the future.
(Note: By a vote of 5-2, the Council agreed at the March 2, 2010 council meeting to move this item to the Regular Meeting of June 8, 2010. This was following presentations from 4 citizens asking Council to consider moving elections to Fall Even years, in an effort to save taxpayer dollars. This was also a recommendation of the Citizens Budget Committee.)
Among the many contracts that were approved, one had been disputed at a prior Council meeting by John Sentz. Tonight, this contract, with Severn Trent Environmental Services, was resubmitted at a cost reduction of $173,000.
A contract was disputed tonight by Jenn Daniels, for additional landscape maintenance provided by All-The-Scapes, LLC. She was concerned about the lack of supporting documentation and specifics to justify the need for additional funds. This was pushed forward to June 22.
For the first time since the 1970’s, the Town’s Human Resources Department went out to bid for the Town’s workers compensation insurance. They have been with SCF (State Compensation Fund) all this time. Ann Evans, the HR Manager, reviewed the process. Their broker Willis of AZ went to 20 different companies. Both SCF and Travelers responded. Travelers’ proposal provided a savings of $475,000 over last year. The overall services are better, more streamlined, with real time access online. According to Ms. Evans, not only will the Town save money, but they will also save time. Even their liability limits are higher. The Council approved the contract with Travelers.
(This just proves that when given the nod to shop for the best deal possible, the Town employees perform very well. About 5 HR staff people attended this meeting, and they deserve our thanks. Now, what about going out to bid for the health insurance contract? That would free up about $9 million in reserves.)
Marc Skocypec reported on the Budget as it relates to the Secondary Property Tax revenues. It is currently set at $1.15 per $100 of secondary assessed valuation. A Secondary Property tax can only be used for payments of general obligation debt service on outstanding bonds. Revenues have been declining over the last few years and as of 2011-2012, bond payments will be higher than revenues. However, Marc advised that $4.2 million in callable bonds will be available for this purpose. The Council approved the current tax rate.
Marc also presented information on the Street Light Improvement Districts. Historically, Gilbert lost a substantial amount of money due to the assessor’s office failure to assess individual lots when subdivisions were split. The Town has made an improvement in cross-checking the data and verifying the assessor’s office. The Town is ensuring the assessments are going out correctly. Thus, the Town lost revenues from the electricity used. Gilbert is slowly recovering the electricity costs.
Most of tonight’s discussion centered on the Budget,for FY 2010-11 which was finally balanced on a “preliminary basis.” The final vote will occur on June 22.
Interim Town Manager Collin Dewitt presented the anticipated deficit of $6 million, and the sources of revenue that had been identified by Council at a prior meeting to meet the deficit. The accounts identified to cover the shortfall included the LTAF II (Local Transportation Assistance Fund), which are funds that will need to be replaced since they are for projects like bus stops, in the amount of $2.697 million; Equipment Replacement Fund monies that were designated last year but not needed, $2.065 million; Unused General Fund of $2.316 million that were designated last year but not needed; Contingency Fund $1.106 million. This totaled $8,184,000 to cover the $6 million deficit.
However, the Council decided to reject the 3% salary reduction of $1.7 million, plus at the request of Linda Abbott, they added another $20k to keep the swmming pools open on Saturday. Also, Council had asked the Fire and Police Chiefs to advise Council of their needs. Fire asked for a minimum of $260k (for training), but that $1 million would return them to the standard they desired, which would restore them to overtime levels (needed for multi-company training) and return to service a fire truck. Police advised that they can transfer some non-sworn positions to sworn without additional funding. Jenn Daniels responded to the assertion by Linda Abbott the community has suffered an indisputable decline in service and have been in peril at times. Jenn stated it is disputable because our response times have actually improved. Collin stated that without the additional funding to $1 million, there will be days when a station is not open. He further stated that there are various levels of measurement, including 2nd or 3rd trucks to a large incident, and those response times are slower. Per Les, 4-minute response time has always been the goal. He stated that until he sees additional numbers, not just advice, he is not comfortable authorizing more funds. Also he stated that SouthWest Ambulance responds to incidents. Thus, the Fire Department was given $312,000 pending supporting documentation that more is required.