Pension shortfall back on agenda

Prescott City Council to decide on selling buildings

The dialogue will continue this week on the City of Prescott’s efforts to pay down its more than $78 million shortfall with the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS).

In a series of meetings on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the Prescott City Council will consider issues relating to the pension’s unfunded liability.

First, during a closed-door executive session at 10 a.m., the council will consider the sale or lease of surplus city property to generate revenue that could go toward the shortfall.

The discussion began on Feb. 7, when the council heard a report on a list of “unneeded” properties, which could be sold.

City Manager Michael Lamar said Friday, Feb. 10, that the consideration would continue during the executive session, including discussion about the value of the various properties.

The PSPRS liability will come up again at the council’s 3 p.m. voting session, when the discussion will turn to using the city’s general fund reserve of about $13.3 million, as well as reduced spending through alternative service delivery.

At previous meetings, the council has discussed the possibility of putting a portion of the “unassigned” reserve toward the PSPRS shortfall – a move intended to bring down the amount the city must pay each year to the PSPRS to service the unfunded liability.

That idea arose during the council Strategic Plan Committee’s months of discussion about how to stabilize the city’s general fund by paying down the PSPRS liability.

While a 0.75-percent sales tax increase measure was a primary recommendation of the committee, the council also decided to look into a number of other options for paying down the shortfall before finalizing the ballot wording for the sales tax measure.

Another of the options was a reduction in spending through alternative-service delivery.

Lamar said that might involve turning over some of the duties of firefighters and police officers to civilian employees, who would not be enrolled in the PSPRS.

For instance, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson asked, “Do you need a full-fledged firefighter to do safety inspections? The answer is ‘no.’”

In the police department, Lamar reported recently that civilian employees already are taking reports Monday through Friday. Pending changes include having Tri-Tech Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) triage calls for both police and fire, so they can provide the appropriate response.

The Prescott Police Department also is considering contracting out the service of subpoenas and warrants, which would free up detectives for other duties, Lamar’s report stated. The department also is exploring having civilian employees do accident investigation, as well as more use of volunteers.

Likewise, the fire department has started a Fire Auxiliary Corps of volunteers, and is having fire inspections done by a non-sworn staffer with the oversight of a PSPRS member.

Meanwhile, the fire department also is looking into bringing in a third party to take over plans-examiner functions and to allow for electronic submissions, as well as working with other automatic aid partners to enhance emergency medical services to minimize calls for service not requiring a fire truck.

In other action on Tuesday, the council will conduct a study session at 1 p.m., during which it will: hear a report from the Prescott Public Works Department on the mid-year status of the 2017 fiscal-year capital improvement plan; hear a report on the Goodwin Street improvement project; and discuss an agreement for hydrogeological modeling services for the Big Chino Sub-Basin Groundwater Flow Model.