Friday, April 16, 2010

Town manager tells SV council to watch spending

By Matt Brabb
Connection Editor

Though revenue coming into the Town of Star Valley coffers has declined, to this point they have managed to pay the bills, pave the roads, and build a sizable cash reserve in spite of an extremely challenging economic climate.

Town Manager Timothy Grier, who also serves as the town attorney, gave a synopsis of where the town stands financially on Tuesday, during the regular council meeting.

While noting that the town, after purchasing a new town hall, still has some $2.5 million in reserve, he stressed the fact that that money, once spent, could be replaced only very slowly.

“You have to make the decision on what priorities to make,” he told the council.

“If you make a mistake, we don’t have a fix,” he added.

Grier then went over the town’s incoming revenue for the current fiscal year. That figure is estimated to be just over $1.5 million, but operating expenditures for the town come to nearly $1 million, leaving the town with a net gain of roughly $500,000.

The town’s projected revenue for fiscal year 2010/2011 is a little over $200,000, a significant drop. The decline explains in part the fears Grier has about being able to replace the $2.5 million held in reserve if it were spent.

The decrease in revenue is expected because of the drops in state shared revenue, town sales tax, and a reduction in photo enforcement income.

Currently photo enforcement is the number one source of revenue for the town, resulting in a net gain of $431,000. In gross figures, the town takes in some $1.3 million a year from its use. Though the town is calculating that it will actually see a decrease in photo enforcement revenue, Mayor Bill Rappaport recently announced that two additional cameras would be erected along Arizona Highway 260 in downtown Star Valley.

Other sources of revenue for the town are the state sales tax, grants, license/permits, and HURF funds, which are dedicated to road improvements.

Grier noted that the town had done everything it can to cut spending.

“There is no meat left to cut off the bone,” he said, explaining that members of town staff are already serving several roles usually performed by many workers. An example is Town Clerk Stephanie Jones. Her duties include those of office manager, accounts payable, town manager assistant, town attorney legal assistant, and photo enforcement liaison. She also helps to manage the town’s role in the census and elections.

“We need to be able to keep the staff we have,” Grier stressed.

He then ticked off the services the town already provides, consisting of street paving, sewer and flood studies, law enforcement, animal control, zoning compliance, review of building permits, street maintenance and emergency street response, star thistle control, and publishing the town newsletter.

“We are not going to be able to provide more services or the same services with less revenues,” he said.

For that reason he cautioned the council to be careful when undertaking new, expensive projects. These could include water and sewer, flood containment, streets and roads, or a park system.

“Put price tags on your decisions,” he advised.

“Money that has taken four and a half years to accumulate will only trickle back in,” he added, speaking of the town’s reserves. “Bonds are not going to be an option for us.”

The next step for the council will be a work session in which council members discuss the financial situation that Grier described to them. They will then be able to prioritize projects, and plan for future spending.

“That was a hell of a presentation,” Mayor Rappaport told Grier at its conclusion.

“I’m just glad I don’t have a vote,” joked Grier.

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